Subsurface impacts of hydraulic fracturing: Contamination, seismic sensitivity, and groundwater use and demand management

Principal Investigator - M. Cathryn Ryan, Professor, University of Calgary, 2014 - 2015
Challenge

Over 10 million Canadians depend directly on groundwater for their drinking water supply. However, groundwater is increasingly threatened by issues of over-exploitation and contamination. Developing effective protection strategies for this precious resource is critical to the economy, the environment and public health.  Such an approach requires informed research on potential impacts to sub-surface water resources. In particular, hydraulic fracturing, an activity which has increased dramatically in recent years, has the potential to significantly impact subsurface and groundwater resources, yet remains an area of much ambiguity. This project was designed to evaluate perceived knowledge gaps of potential hydraulic fracturing impacts on groundwater resources, and to analyze available research methods to address these gaps in relation to decision-making in a Canadian context.

Project

The researchers divided into specialized teams focused on specific sub-disciplines of hydrogeology and groundwater science. The teams performed comprehensive literature reviews to fully assess current state-of-the-art of research before generating individual reports which were eventually combined to form a standalone literature review document. The results from this report will be presented and discussed at two-day workshop with key shale gas development decision-makers. After the workshop, a second report will be generated by each team summarizing all aspects of groundwater science requiring research and an assessment of potential research approaches including advantages and disadvantages. Both reports will be combined to produce the final CWN-Knowledge Integration report, which will be presented at a second workshop to discuss the findings and outcomes of the project.

Outputs
  • Workshops 1 & 2: following the completion of the comprehensive groundwater literature review report, a two day workshop will be held to bring the project team together with key shale gas development decision-makers to present results and discuss the findings of the literature review. Following finalization of the final knowledge integration report, a two day close-out workshop will be held to discuss the findings and outcomes of the project.
  • Knowledge integration report: comprehensive literature review to fully assess current state-of-the-art of research regarding potential hydraulic fracturing impacts on groundwater resources, summarizing all aspects of groundwater science requiring research and an assessment of potential research approaches including advantages and disadvantages
Outcomes
  • Identification of key knowledge gaps relating to groundwater identified as priorities for decision makers
  • Summary of practical research approaches that could be used to address the priority knowledge gaps, including a discussion of potential strengths and weaknesses in a Canadian context
  • Summary of current research approaches and knowledge relevant to groundwater
Ryan HF 288

research team and partners:

Research Team

Cathryn Ryan, Professor, University of Calgary
Daniel Alessi, Assistant Professor & Encana Chair in Water Resources, University of Alberta
David Eaton, Professor, University of Calgary
Bernhard Mayer, Professor, University of Calgary
Uli Mayer, Professor, University of British Columbia
John Moson, Assistant Professor, Université Laval
Lucija Muehlenbachs, Assistant Professor, University of Calgary
Beth Parker, Professor, University of Guelph
Avner Vengosh, Professor, Duke University
John Cherry, Adjunct Professor, University of Guelph
Karlis Muehlenbachs, Professor, University of Alberta
Per Pederson, Association Professor, University of Calgary
Maurice Dusseault, Professor, University of Waterloo
Don Lawton, Professor, University of Calgary
Richard Jackson, Adjunct Professor, University of Waterloo
Tom Al, Professor, University of New Brunswick

Partners

Alberta Energy Regulator
Alberta Environment & Sustainable Resource Development
Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland
Resources for the Future
Pembina Institute

RESEARCH REPORT
 

2015 Ryan report cover hydraulic fracturing