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Lookup NU author(s): Professor Richard DaviesORCiD,
Professor Andy Hart
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).
© 2017. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Groundwater flow resulting from a proposed hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operation was numerically modeled using 91 scenarios. Scenarios were chosen to be a combination of hydrogeological factors that a priori would control the long-term migration of fracking fluids to the shallow subsurface. These factors were induced fracture extent, cross-basin groundwater flow, deep low hydraulic conductivity strata, deep high hydraulic conductivity strata, fault hydraulic conductivity, and overpressure. The study considered the Bowland Basin, northwest England, with fracking of the Bowland Shale at ∼2,000 m depth and the shallow aquifer being the Sherwood Sandstone at ∼300–500 m depth. Of the 91 scenarios, 73 scenarios resulted in tracked particles not reaching the shallow aquifer within 10,000 years and 18 resulted in travel times less than 10,000 years. Four factors proved to have a statistically significant impact on reducing travel time to the aquifer: increased induced fracture extent, absence of deep high hydraulic conductivity strata, relatively low fault hydraulic conductivity, and magnitude of overpressure. Modeling suggests that high hydraulic conductivity formations can be more effective barriers to vertical flow than low hydraulic conductivity formations. Furthermore, low hydraulic conductivity faults can result in subsurface pressure compartmentalization, reducing horizontal groundwater flow, and encouraging vertical fluid migration. The modeled worst-case scenario, using unlikely geology and induced fracture lengths, maximum values for strata hydraulic conductivity and with conservative tracer behavior had a particle travel time of 130 years to the base of the shallow aquifer. This study has identified hydrogeological factors which lead to aquifer vulnerability from shale exploitation.
Author(s): Wilson MP, Worrall F, Davies RJ, Hart A
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Water Resources Research
Online publication date: 10/11/2017
Acceptance date: 07/11/2017
Date deposited: 26/11/2018
ISSN (print): 0043-1397
ISSN (electronic): 1944-7973
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