WVU Prof: Methane in Water Supplies is Not from Fracking

Dr Shikha SharmaDr. Shikha Sharma, an assistant professor at West Virginia University and the lead researcher of a new WVU study looking at the source of methane found in water supplies (see this MDN story), says those who think that hydraulic fracturing is the cause of methane found in their water supply may be wrong. And she can prove it—scientifically.

Those who believe their drinking water wells may be contaminated with methane released by natural gas fracking may be wrong, according to a West Virginia University professor.

"The source of methane gas can range from active or inactive deep coal mines, landfills, gas storage fields or microbial gas generated in a shallow subsurface," said assistant professor Shikha Sharma, noting that dissolved methane gas already exists in groundwater where there is no shale gas drilling.

"As a scientist, it is my job to stay focused on the scientific perspective of this study while staying neutral on the political and social issues associated with it," she added.

In the midst of a study on the origins of methane gas in the Monongahela River watershed and other areas of this region, Sharma stops short of saying that fracking, or hydraulic fracturing of the shale, absolutely does not release methane into groundwater.

"Depending on how and where this methane is formed, it can have very different C and H isotope signatures. This gives us the ability to know if it comes from hydrofracking releases or some other source," she said.*

*The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register (Oct 11, 2011) – WVU Professor: Methane Already in Groundwater

  • ann ellis

    The headline draws a conclusion that is not consistent with the article. The article says that the methane may not be from fracking and that testing will be able to tell. The article does not say that the methane is not from fracking. Please change the headline to read, “Methane in water supplies may or may not be from fracking, testing will prove source.”

  • Technically you’re right, but the clear implication, the intention of her comments, is that in the vast majority (vast majority) the answer is a clear “it’s not coming from fracking”. Therefore, my headline is not misleading.

  • One Citizen

    Editor Jim Willis intentionally panders to his richest readers. The most egregious example is when he fabricated the description “vast majority” in connection with the source of methane when neither the study nor the researcher came even close to that assumption.

  • Anonymous

    OK…..been reading all the posts for a while now and I have to chime in here. First…….one opinion does not make it so and the headline is misleading…….either fracking does or does not cause methane leaks into water tables. The headline gives one the impression it does not, but the article says the assistant Prof is not sure. So what can we draw from this? Nothing. It does not back up a claim or prove one to be a false claim. How about a panel of scientists backing up a claim? That would go a long way in the debate. Fact is, the jury is still out on what HVHF does or doesn’t do. Is 4 or 5 years long enough to know? Smoking was good for you at one time, so I would have to say no. This rush to drill is reckless and once implemented, you cannot go back in time and fix the problems that can take years to manifest themselves. Be careful what you wish for.

  • Anonymous

    If you are going to report on scientific results, then to avoid confusion, you should go to the source, not a newspaper story.  The press release from Eberly College, WVU: Dr Sharma is studying the origin of methane in groundwater where there has yet to be gas drilling.   This could  “potentially be used to as baseline for identifying dissolved methane releases associated with Marcellus shale gas drilling.”  Your headline is misleading.

  • Anonymous

    Where does she say that Jim? She lists the many places methane CAN come from….but gives no explanation on how you distinguish one source from another and she is just starting her research on nat gas wells and surrounding water wells……so where do you get your “clear “answer? I’m listening.

  • Anonymous

    AMEN…Rome wasn’t built in one day, either.