Project summary: 

Hydraulic fracturing (fraccing) is a technique used to enhance gas flow from CSG wells in areas where the coal seams have low permeability. It involves injecting a mix of water and sand (typically 99%) and 1%industrial chemicals into the coal seam under high pressure in order to create small fractures that allow the gas to flow more readily to the well. Media attention has focused on the potential impacts of fraccing and many community members have expressed concern that valuable groundwater resources will be negatively impacted by this technique.

Groundwater contamination in the Pavilion area of Wyoming, USA was investigated by the USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine if natural gas wells and fraccing had adversely influenced groundwater quality. The preliminary report from this EPA study indicated that fracturing chemicals had contaminated groundwater and this outcome has been regularly used as an example of the negative fraccing impacts. However, the methodology used and the outcomes obtained have been the subject of scientific dispute. As a result further sampling and chemical analyses were undertaken by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), but data interpretation has not been completed. The EPA has discontinued its involvement with the investigation without providing any further information regarding the accuracy of the preliminary report and the scientific peer review process for the report will not be completed.

Consequently, complete information has not been presented to the public or to regulatory agencies. Further analysis of both the EPA report and subsequent USGS investigation is required to clarify if fraccing chemicals have been found in groundwater or if the contamination is due to chemicals from other human activities. This project will conduct a review of all scientific information related to the Pavilion groundwater investigations to produce a complete assessment of the incident and its causes.

NOTE: This project was discontinued following the release of the Pavillion, Wyoming Area Domestic Water Wells Final Report and Palatability Study. This comprehenisve investigation was conducted by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. A link to the final report and appendices is provided below.

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Start date: 
November 2013
Completion date: 
December 2016
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Discountinued due to comprehensive investigation and reporting by regulatory agency.

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This information has been collated by the Centre for Coal Seam Gas. The project summary on this page may be a reproduction or adaptation of the researcher’s own published description of the project, which is generally available via the link to online information located beneath the summary. In other cases, the summary has been provided directly by the researcher or their organisation.