National, Eel, Luquillo, Shale Hills, INVESTIGATOR, COLLABORATOR
Natural gas sourced from shales but stored in more permeable formations has long been exploited as an energy resource. Now, however, gas is exploited directly from the low-porosity and low-permeability shale reservoirs through the use of hydrofracturing. Hydrofracturing is not a new technique: it has long been utilized in the energy industry to promote flow of oil and gas from traditional reservoirs. To exploit gas in reservoirs such as the Marcellus shale in PA, hydrofracturing is paired with directional drilling. Such hydrofracturing utilizes large volumes of water to increase porosity in the shale formations at depth. Small concentrations of chemicals are added to the water to improve the formation and maintenance of the fractures. Significant public controversy has developed in response to the use of hydrofracturing especially in the northeastern states underlain by the Marcellus shale where some citizens and scientists question whether shale gas recovery will contaminate local surface and ground waters. Researchers, government agencies, and citizen scientists in Pennsylvania are teaming up to run the ShaleNetwork (www.shalenetwork.org), an NSF-funded research collaboration network that is currently finding, collating, sharing, publishing, and exploring data related to water quality and quantity in areas that are exploiting shale gas. The effort, focussed initially on Pennsylvania, is now developing the ShaleNetwork database that can be accessed through HydroDesktop in the CUAHSI Hydrologic Information System. In the first year since inception, the ShaleNetwork ran a workshop and reached eight conclusions, largely focussed on issues related to the sources, entry, and use of data. First, the group discovered that extensive water data is available in areas of shale gas. Second, participants agreed that the Shale Network team should partner with state agencies and industry to move datasets online. Third, participants discovered that the database allows participants to assess data gaps. Fourth, the team was encouraged to search for data that plug gaps. Fifth, the database should be easily sustained by others long-term if the Shale Network team simplifies the process of uploading data and finds ways to create community buy-in or incentives for
data uploads. Sixth, the database itself and the workshops for the database should drive future agreement about analytical protocols. Seventh, the database is already encouraging other groups to publish data online. Finally, a user interface is needed that is easier and more accessible for citizens to use. Overall, it is clear that sharing data is one way to build bridges among decision makers, scientists, and citizens to understand issues related to sustainable development of energy resources in the face of issues related to water quality and quantity.
Brantley, S.L., Abad, J.D., Vastine, J., Yoxtheimer, D., Wilderman, C., Vidic, R., Hooper, R.P., Brasier, K. (2012): Sharing Water Data to Encourage Sustainable Choices in Areas of the Marcellus Shale (Invited). AGU Annual Fall Conference Proceedings.