The hydrogeochemistry of methane : evidence from English groundwaters

Darling, W.G.; Gooddy, D.C.. 2006 The hydrogeochemistry of methane : evidence from English groundwaters. Chemical Geology, 229 (4). 293-312.

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The presence of methane (CH4) in groundwater is usually only noticed when it rises to high concentrations; to date rather little is known about its production or natural ‘baseline’ conditions. Evidence from a range of non-polluted groundwater environments in England, including water supply aquifers, aquicludes and thermal waters, reveals that CH4 is almost always detectable, even in aerobic conditions. Measurements of potable waters from Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic carbonate and sandstone aquifers reveal CH4 concentrations of up to 500 μg/l, but a mean value of < 10 μg/l. However, aquiclude and thermal waters from the Carboniferous and Triassic typically contain in excess of 1500 μg/l. Such high concentrations have so far only been found at redox (Eh) potentials below 0 mV, but in general CH4 concentration and Eh value are poorly correlated. This suggests a lack of thermodynamic equilibrium, which is confirmed by comparing pe values calculated from the redox couple C(4)/C(− 4) with those derived from Eh. Genesis of CH4 appears to occur on two timescales: a rapid if low rate of production from labile carbon in anaerobic microsites in the soil, and a much longer, millennium scale of production from more refractory carbon. Methane is rarely measured in groundwater; there is no single ionic determinand which acts universally as a proxy, but a combination of high HCO3 and low SO4 concentrations, or the reverse, is an indication that high amounts of CH4 may be present.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: BGS Programmes > Groundwater Management
ISSN: 0009-3541
Additional Keywords: Hydrogeochemistry, Groundwaters, Methane, Aquifers, Redox, Carbon isotopes, Chalk, Limestone, Sandstone, GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater, Groundwater quality, Climate change
NORA Subject Terms: Hydrology
Related URLs:
Date made live: 04 Jul 2007 10:16 +0 (UTC)

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