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Assessing the Groundwater Contamination Potential from a Well in a Hydraulic Fracturing Operation

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The introduction of hydraulic fracturing as a new technology for shale gas production from low-permeability geologic formations has revitalized natural gas as an abundant, economic, and cleaner source of energy. However, hydraulic fracturing has raised several environmental concerns, from air pollution and drinking water contamination to on-site accidents and risks associated with potential seismic activities induced by subsurface fluid injection. Some of the potential incidents and accidents could be mitigated by adding more precautions to the different stages of an operation. Integrity of the injection well is one of the most important factors to be considered when dealing with water resources contamination. This work focuses on groundwater contamination potential in a leakage accident from the casing during hydraulic fracturing. A numerical flow and transport modeling approach is adopted to explore and quantify the associated risk of groundwater contamination under various hypothetical scenarios. The goal is to investigate a few cases with different geological and operational parameters and, also, to evaluate the importance of the well integrity, especially along the interval in which well casing is inside an aquifer. The results of the work show that if the well integrity is compromised, the groundwater will be contaminated by the chemicals in a relatively short duration. It is also shown that the result of the stochastic work is dependent on how well one knows the failure scenario. The appropriate choice of the probability distribution function for the leakage point is of high importance in simulations such as these.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2015

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