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Development of a monitoring system for inspection of soil and aquifer contamination by shalegas and fracking chemicals

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - ShaleSafe (Development of a monitoring system for inspection of soil and aquifer contamination by shalegas and fracking chemicals)

Reporting period: 2017-10-01 to 2019-06-30

A frequently expressed concern associated with shale gas exploration and extraction is that the underground water can become polluted by methane gas, contaminated flow back liquids, or the chemicals used during the fracking process. This can occur through subsurface pathways from the fractured shale layer or as a result of a loss of integrity of the wellbore. There is also the potential for contamination if the flow back water leaks from the surface due to it not being properly contained prior to disposal.
The oil and gas industry must demonstrate, and guarantee, safe exploration and exploitation by meeting monitoring requirements set by environmental regulators. There is, therefore, a clear industry wide need to develop and implement a new in-situ technology that can continuously, reliably and cost effectively monitor the underground water and soil quality for contamination specific to shale oil and gas sub-surface activities.
The ShaleSafe proposal aims to tackle the aforementioned issue by developing an instrumentation system, which allows multiple sensor probes to be deployed in hydrological monitoring wells around the wellsite to provide automated continuous in-situ monitoring of a broad range of targeted contaminants.
In terms of the project implementation, ShaleSafe has 6 work packages that were successfully delivered. WP1 involves the management and coordination. In WP2, modifications and adjustment on the pre-commercial ShaleSafe system to meet wider customers need and initial business planning for the different commercial components of the ShaleSafe system will be carried out. WP3 uses the results compiled in WP2 to finalise and validate the development of ShaleSafe into a commercial product, while WP4 deals with the verification of its physical components and the fine tuning and optimisation of the system so that it is ready for installation in a real operating environment. WP5 is dedicated to the certification of ShaleSafe, which has to conform to international quality control standards such as the European CE mark. WP6 involves an effective communication and dissemination of project results to the appropriate audience based on the exploitation plan to ensure impact.

The highlights of what has been achieved so far are:

• Finalisation of the pre-commercial system and testing of its individual parts in the laboratory
• Completion and qualification of ShaleSafe system. ShaleSafe system was certified against relevant CE standards
• Automated ShaleSafe deployment procedure. The final version of the system was tested in relevant environmental conditions like the ones expected in a typical field site. This was performed in an autoclave where temperature and pressure were simulated based on the end users needs.
• Production of quality dissemination materials, profiling the project and marketing the project. ShaleSafe had a strong presence in relevant conferences and workshops, leaflet dedicated to its dissemination was prepared along with a video that offers a pictorial illustration of the ShaleSafe working principle
• Development of a full commercialisation roadmap for ShaleSafe. This roadmap is part of the Marketing Plan deliverable (D6.2) and Business model (D6.5) that describe the different stakeholders and how ShaleSafe can be taken to the market with the best possible results.
• Completion and analysis of the market research. A dedicated market research was performed and this can be found in detail within D6.2.
The ability of ShaleSafe to detect very small concentrations of dissolved methane is something of great importance since it has an effect on the identification of polluted drinking water sources, which are often drawn from underground aquifers. Its ability to autonomously monitor the quality of aquifers close to drilling sites every few hours vastly reduces the time to detect chemical pollution and reduces public health risks significantly.

The main impacts from the development of ShaleSafe system are the following:
1. Cost effective and long term monitoring of groundwater quality, which is essential for shale gas exploration
2. Separation of water from the gas sample and protection of the sensors/electronics from water ingress during the sampling sequence
3. Unmanned collection of data and frequent status updates from multiple monitoring points
4. Offer of a competitive solution to key stakeholders
Visualisation of ShaleSafe technology deployed in the vicinity of a shale gas well site