Characterising the vertical separation of shale-gas source rocks and aquifers across England and Wales (UK)

Loveless, Sian E.; Bloomfield, John P. ORCID:; Ward, Robert S.; Hart, Alwyn J.; Davey, Ian R.; Lewis, Melinda A.. 2018 Characterising the vertical separation of shale-gas source rocks and aquifers across England and Wales (UK). Hydrogeology Journal, 26 (6). 1975-1987.

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Shale gas is considered by many to have the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, economic growth and jobs. However, development of a shale gas industry is highly contentious due to environmental concerns including the risk of groundwater pollution. Evidence suggests that the vertical separation between exploited shale units and aquifers is an important factor in the risk to groundwater from shale gas exploitation. A methodology is presented to assess the vertical separation between different pairs of aquifers and shales that are present across England and Wales. The application of the method is then demonstrated for two of these pairs—the Cretaceous Chalk Group aquifer and the Upper Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation, and the Triassic sandstone aquifer and the Carboniferous Bowland Shale Formation. Challenges in defining what might be considered criteria for ‘safe separation’ between a shale gas formation and an overlying aquifer are discussed, in particular with respect to uncertainties in geological properties, aquifer extents and determination of socially acceptable risk levels. Modelled vertical separations suggest that the risk of aquifer contamination from shale exploration will vary greatly between shale–aquifer pairs and between regions and this will need to be considered carefully as part of the risk assessment and management for any shale gas development.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 14312174
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Methane and shale gas
Date made live: 20 Mar 2018 15:04 +0 (UTC)

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