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Methane in Barnett Area Groundwater Naturally Occurring

After four years of studies, scientists have found no link between methane present in water wells outside of Fort Worth and nearby gas production activities in the Barnett Shale. Along the way, researchers believe they have developed important methods that could be applied in similar situations to determine where methane originates in an environment.

The latest study, published in August 2018 in Water Resources Research, is the fifth and final in a series conducted by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan that looks at groundwater wells in the Barnett Shale area. The vast majority of the wells have little or no methane in the water, but a cluster of 11 wells near the Parker County and Hood County line had methane levels above 10 milligrams per liter of water, a level that can require venting of well water systems to ensure the flammable gas does not accumulate to hazardous levels.

“Protecting groundwater quality is afundamental requirement for sustainable energy development, and it is important to develop tools that can be used to monitor ongoing gas exploration and production activities,” said lead author Toti Larson, a research associate at the Bureau of Economic Geology, a research unit of the Jackson School of Geosciences.

Researchers used the chemistry of dissolved gases in groundwater — including methane, noble gases and nitrogen — to
identify their likely sources. The researchers’ findings and conclusions have remained consistent through the studies: The methane appears to have migrated naturally to the wells from the shallower Strawn formations and not from the Barnett Shale, where natural gas production and hydraulic fracturing are occurring.