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Meeting Water Needs for Shale Gas Exploitation

The recent boom in exploitation of oil shales has dramatically changed the petroluem industry with active extraction occuring in areas once considered barren.  Producing gas from these new sources requires the use of huge volumes of groundwater such that producing water and disposing of the waste water are major factors in the financial viability of any fracking project.

Although it would be considered foolish to drill deep gas wells without high-
quality seismic data, often overlooked in the geophysics program is the value of locating and mapping the water resources required, as well as tracking the flow of the fracking fluids.

High-resolution, 3D seismic data are required to define geologic structural controls of the shale gas system, and microseismic monitoring provides an image of where rock has failed. But neither of these directly indicates areas of fluid flow.

However, combining these data with the results of deep-sounding electrical methods (TEM, MT, CSEM/CSAMT) provides both a means of locating groundwater resources and of mapping the actual flow of waste fluids as they migrate through pre-existing permeability pathways.

Finally, monitoring actual fluid flow, rather than just determining mechanical failure, may prove invaluable toward heading off environmental and regulatory concerns.

Scott Urquhart, president and managing geophysicist, Zonge International