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Durham University

Department of Earth Sciences

Postgraduate Students

Publication details for Professor Fred Worrall

Almond, S., Clancy, S.A., Davies, R.J. & Worrall, F. (2014). The flux of radionuclides in flowback fluid from shale gas exploitation. Environmental Science & Pollution Research 21(21): 12316-12324.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

This study considers the flux of radioactivity in flowback fluid from shale gas development in three areas: the Carboniferous, Bowland Shale, UK; the Silurian Shale, Poland; and the Carboniferous Barnett Shale, USA. The radioactive flux from these basins was estimated, given estimates of the number of wells developed or to be developed, the flowback volume per well and the concentration of K (potassium) and Ra (radium) in the flowback water. For comparative purposes, the range of concentration was itself considered within four scenarios for the concentration range of radioactive measured in each shale gas basin, the groundwater of the each shale gas basin, global groundwater and local surface water. The study found that (i) for the Barnett Shale and the Silurian Shale, Poland, the 1 % exceedance flux in flowback water was between seven and eight times that would be expected from local groundwater. However, for the Bowland Shale, UK, the 1 % exceedance flux (the flux that would only be expected to be exceeded 1 % of the time, i.e. a reasonable worst case scenario) in flowback water was 500 times that expected from local groundwater. (ii) In no scenario was the 1 % exceedance exposure greater than 1 mSv—the allowable annual exposure allowed for in the UK. (iii) The radioactive flux of per energy produced was lower for shale gas than for conventional oil and gas production, nuclear power production and electricity generated through burning coal.