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Open AccessArticle

Evaluating Potential for Groundwater Contamination from Surface Spills Associated with Unconventional Oil and Gas Production: Methodology and Application to the South Platte Alluvial Aquifer

1
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO 80401, USA
2
McLane Environmental, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Constantinos V. Chrysikopoulos
Water 2021, 13(3), 353; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13030353
Received: 25 September 2020 / Revised: 4 January 2021 / Accepted: 27 January 2021 / Published: 30 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contaminant Transport and Fate)
Surface spills occur frequently during unconventional oil and gas production operations and have the potential to impact groundwater quality. A screening-level analysis using contaminant fate and transport simulations was performed to: (1) evaluate whether hypothetical (yet realistic) spills of aqueous produced fluids pose risks to groundwater quality in the South Platte Aquifer, (2) identify the key hydrologic and transport factors that determine these risks, and (3) develop a screening-level methodology that could be applied for other sites and pollutants. This assessment considered a range of representative hydrologic conditions and transport behavior for benzene, a regulated pollutant in production fluids. Realistic spill volumes and areas were determined using publicly available data collected by Colorado’s regulatory agency. Risk of groundwater pollution was based on predicted benzene concentrations at the groundwater table. Results suggest that the risk of groundwater contamination from benzene in a produced water spill was relatively low in the South Platte Aquifer. Spill size was the dominant factor influencing whether a contaminant reached the water table. Only statistically larger spills (volume per surface area ≥12.0 cm) posed a clear risk. Storm events following a spill were generally required to transport typical (median)-sized spills (0.38 cm volume per surface area) to the water table; typical spills only posed risk if a 500 or 100 year storm (followed by little degradation or sorption) occurred right after the spill. This methodology could be applied to evaluate spills occurring over other aquifers. View Full-Text
Keywords: hydraulic fracturing; produced water; South Platte Alluvial Aquifer; surface spills; groundwater impact; unconventional oil and gas; HYDRUS-1D hydraulic fracturing; produced water; South Platte Alluvial Aquifer; surface spills; groundwater impact; unconventional oil and gas; HYDRUS-1D
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MDPI and ACS Style

Kanno, C.M.; McCray, J.E. Evaluating Potential for Groundwater Contamination from Surface Spills Associated with Unconventional Oil and Gas Production: Methodology and Application to the South Platte Alluvial Aquifer. Water 2021, 13, 353. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13030353

AMA Style

Kanno CM, McCray JE. Evaluating Potential for Groundwater Contamination from Surface Spills Associated with Unconventional Oil and Gas Production: Methodology and Application to the South Platte Alluvial Aquifer. Water. 2021; 13(3):353. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13030353

Chicago/Turabian Style

Kanno, Cynthia M.; McCray, John E. 2021. "Evaluating Potential for Groundwater Contamination from Surface Spills Associated with Unconventional Oil and Gas Production: Methodology and Application to the South Platte Alluvial Aquifer" Water 13, no. 3: 353. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13030353

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