Could Tracers End Fracking’s Water Contamination Debate?

Researcher testing the water quality
Source: DollarPhotoClub

According to Water Online’s Produced Water Treatment Solutions Center, researchers say chemical tracers would be particularly useful in instances where water contamination shows up near a fracking site. In such cases, energy industry proponents often argued that metals and chemicals in the water supply did not originate at the fracking site; rather, they were already there.

BaseTrace, a technology startup company, claims that: “a well-specific DNA-based tracer can be added to the hydraulic fracturing fluid, enabling us to better find leaks and trace them back to their original fluid source. The tracer is composed of inexpensive, inert strands of resilient DNA that can be mixed with a wide variety of industrial fluids, providing each fluid source with a chemical fingerprint that is simple and cheap to identify.”

“This means that leakages in power plants can be traced back to individual tanks or fluid systems, greatly returning analytical turnaround time. Hydraulic fracturing fluid can be traced back to the individual source well, allowing for faster fixes and improved well efficiency.”

According to many environmental groups the fracking method is very harmful to the environment and local communities. During recent years the shale industry has expanded rapidly in the U.S. and many accusations have been made against the companies which use fracking to produce oil and gas from shale reserves.

While those concerns are varied, ranging from earth tremors and explosions to increased local traffic and property devaluation, one of the greatest problems associated with shale exploration is that of contaminated groundwater.

So the question remains, can this kind of technology help end the water contamination debate and boost the exploration of shale gas reserves in Europe where hydraulic fracturing remains controversial?

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