Jan 20, 2016

NGWREF Grant Funds Study of Potential Groundwater Contamination from Hydraulic Fracturing

Research will be conducted by SUNY Polytechnic Institute

The National Ground Water Research and Educational Foundation (NGWREF) has awarded SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Utica, N.Y., a $6,550 research grant to use probabilistic risk assessment and fault tree analysis (FTA) to evaluate potential groundwater degradation from hydraulic fracturing.

“The public and policymakers have been concerned with the potential of hydraulic fracturing impacting our valuable groundwater resources,” says Foundation Board President Dr. W. Richard Laton, P.G., CHG, CPG, E.G. “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, Ph.D., and the co-investigator, Xinchao Wei, are assistant professors for the College of Engineering at SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

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 FTA to determine the probability of groundwater contamination or exploitation. FTA, 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.

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.