Ground Water Canada

News
NGWREF grant funds study of potential ground water contamination from fracking


January 18, 2016
By Ground Water Canada

Westerville, OH – The National Ground Water Research and Educational Foundation has awarded SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica, New York, a $6,550 research grant to use probabilistic risk assessment and fault tree analysis to evaluate potential ground water degradation from hydraulic fracturing.

“The public and policymakers have been concerned with the potential of hydraulic fracturing impacting our valuable ground water resources,” said foundation board president W. Richard Laton, in a news release. “This study aims to understand the risk of such activities and to put that risk into perspective, allowing policymakers to make sound scientific decisions as to the potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing.”

Both the principal investigator for the research project, Carolyn Rodak, PhD, and the co-investigator, Xinchao Wei, are assistant professors in the College of Engineering at SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

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Their research aims to develop models and data standards that bring together scientific data to inform local policymakers and decision-makers – and assist local officials in responding to public concerns – about contamination of drinking water from household wells.

The researchers will use fault tree analysis (FTA) to determine the probability of ground water contamination or exploitation. The method, used in numerous engineering disciplines, is a top-down approach based on the combination of probabilistically defined basic events. Based on Boolean logic, this approach identifies critical events and pathways that lead to failure and allows for relatively simple updating of information and recalculation of the result, the foundation said.

Fault trees also serve as an effective visual aid for communicating risk and demonstrating connections between various components in highly complex systems. By applying FTA to unconventional reservoirs across the United States, researchers expect to identify region-specific events and pathways that hold the greatest potential for risk reduction and improvement.