Current and Needed Research On the Impacts of Unconventional Oil and Gas Extraction On Freshwater Ecosystems

Tuesday, September 10, 2013: 8:00 AM
Hoffman (The Marriott Little Rock)
Sally Entrekin , Biology, University of Central Arkansas, Conway, AR
Kelly Maloney , Northern Appalachian Research Laboratory, US Geological Survey, Wellsboro, PA
An increasing global demand for energy has led to increased exploration and extraction of unconventional hydrocarbon (oil and natural gas, UOG) resources from organic rich shale plays.  Currently, natural gas from these formations constitutes about 40% of the world’s recoverable energy and this proportion is expected to increase as infrastructure is completed and new sources are tapped. Extraction of UOG requires 1) 2– 3 million gallons of pressurized fracturing fluids per well to break up shale to release gas or oil, 2) infrastructure: pipelines, roads, and pads, and 3) treatment and disposal of produced waste water. The rapid pace of development, close proximity of extraction activities to freshwater, and construction of infrastructure can result in local water shortages, sedimentation, and contamination of surface and groundwater.  However, the extent of ecological impacts is largely unknown.  We present an introductory talk on UOG extraction and its potential effects on aquatic ecosystems. Research presented in this session will focus on how UOG development may affect surface and groundwater quality, freshwater biota, and ecosystem functions.