December 06, 2016
Vancouver, BC – A new genomics research initiative could lead to a natural solution for the reduction and clean-up of hydraulic fracturing fluid components in north-eastern British Columbia. As part of our mandate to support innovative research, Genome BC is funding a project looking to mitigate the impacts of hydraulic fracturing and decrease costs. Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC), Drs. Sean Crowe and Shawn Mansfield, are leading this work in partnership with the BC Oil and Gas Commission (Commission) and Progress Energy.
Shale gas, the natural resource driving BC’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) strategy, is extracted by using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. Fracturing employs large volumes of water, proppants such as sand, and additives such as surfactants, which are injected to a gas bearing shale formation to increase permeability and boost gas flow into the wells. Following the fracturing process, wastewater is produced from the well as “flowback” of the injected water, and later as produced formation water. In BC, wastewater has to be disposed of in regulated disposal wells and surface discharge is not allowed. However, alternative options to disposal have not been fully explored and industry partners are interested in understanding environmentally innovative alternatives to disposal wells.
“Our partners are interested in understanding whether there are environmentally sustainable alternatives to wastewater or impacted soil disposal that could be employed in operations,” says Sean Crowe, Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology & Immunology, and Canada Research Chair in Geomicrobiology. “This research will provide knowledge on the reduction and clean-up of contaminants associated with shale gas development, and will identify potential cost saving strategies and environmental benefits that could be implemented and later refined in future remediation programs.”
The Commission is interested in the fate and transport of fracturing fluid additives and wastewater constituents in surface and subsurface water. This understanding could help strengthen existing regulations or inform the potential development of new, appropriate and effective regulations or guidelines related to groundwater protection if there was to be an accidental release of wastewater to the environment. The high salt content of flowback waters in addition to the additives can impact local ecosystems and the ability for vegetation to re-establish at well sites. This project will examine the capacity of appropriate tree genotypes to withstand and remove salt, and soil bacteria to degrade additives, thus facilitating clean-up efforts and reducing associated financial liability.
“This project is a significant investment into one of BC’s premier natural resources – natural gas,” says Dr. Catalina Lopez Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Sector Development at Genome BC. “This partnership will help to deliver biological solutions for soil remediation and water reuse, and develop effective and cost efficient remediation technologies based on the combined activities of soil microbial communities and trees.”
This project, Natural Attenuation and phytoremediation of fracturing fluids, is valued at over $350,000 and was funded through Genome BC’s User Partnership Program (UPP). For more information on Genome BC’s funding programs, please click here.
About Genome British Columbia:
Genome British Columbia leads genomics innovation on Canada’s West Coast and facilitates the integration of genomics into society. A recognized catalyst for government and industry, Genome BC invests in research, entrepreneurship and commercialization in life sciences to address challenges in key sectors such as health, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, agri-food, energy, mining and environment. Genome BC partners with many national and international public and private funding organizations to drive BC’s bioeconomy. In addition to research, entrepreneurship and commercialization programs, Genome BC is committed to fostering an understanding and appreciation of the life sciences among teachers, students and the general public. www.genomebc.ca