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TitleA study of groundwater quality from domestic wells in the Sussex and Elgin regions, New Brunswick: with comparison to deep formation water and gas from the McCully gas field
AuthorAl, T A; Leblanc, J; Phillips, S
SourceGeological Survey of Canada, Open File 7449, 2013, 40 pages, (Open Access)
PublisherNatural Resources Canada
Documentopen file
Mediaon-line; digital
File formatpdf
ProvinceNew Brunswick
NTS21H/11; 21H/12
AreaSussex; Penobsquis; Elgin
Lat/Long WENS-65.5833 -65.2500 45.8333 45.6667
Subjectshydrogeology; environmental geology; groundwater; groundwater pollution; groundwater geochemistry; groundwater resources; water quality; hydrocarbons; hydrocarbon potential; hydrocarbon gases; gas; McCully gas field; Moncton Subbasin; Carboniferous
Illustrationslocation maps; stratigraphic columns; tables; ternary diagrams; piper diagrams; plots
ProgramShale Reservoir Characterization, Geoscience for New Energy Supply (GNES)
ProgramProgram of Energy Research and Development (PERD)
Released2013 09 06
AbstractThe exploration for shale gas in Canada has led to the identification of a huge volume of in-place and marketable natural gas with the potential of supplying clean burning fuel for many decades. However, some controversies exist on the technique used to unlock these new riches; that is hydraulic fracturing from high-pressure injection of slickwater, a mixture of water, chemicals and proppants (sand) in order to create and keep open small fractures in the target shale.
The Carboniferous Frederick Brook shale and the overlying Hiram Brook sandstone in southern New Brunswick are identified as promising sources for shale gas. Preliminary evaluation of in-place resources by one operator in the Moncton sub-basin suggests 67 Tcf of natural gas in their acreage. At the McCully gas field, there is production from one vertical well in the Frederick Brook shale but most of the production is from tight sandstone of the Hiram Brook Member. Initial exploration specific to shale gas has led to high expectations but inconclusive results. In the same period, societal concerns about the risk of groundwater contamination from shale gas exploration activities have increased significantly in New Brunswick. The Geological Survey of Canada, in collaboration with eastern Canada provincial stakeholders has initiated a four-year research project (2011-2015) designed to evaluate the potential of natural connectivity between the deep-seated shales and the shallow groundwater.
In 2012-2013, the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of New Brunswick carried out a sampling program of 26 water wells from the area around the McCully gas field near Sussex; the operator of the McCully gas field provided gas and brine samples for chemical and isotopic comparison. This gas field has experienced multiple hydraulic fracturing events in vertical wells for the development of the tight sandstone gas reservoir from 2000 to 2008.
The research program consisted of field measurements (pH, redox and alkalinity) as well as groundwater sampling for isotope analyses (18O and 2H) and inorganic chemistry, measurements of dissolved hydrocarbons (methane, ethane and propane) and isotope analyses (13C and 2H) of dissolved methane. Methane from the gas field was isotopically characterized as well as the inorganic chemistry of the brine.
The McCully brine has concentrations of Na, Cl and Br that are hundreds of times higher than that of shallow groundwater. Concentrations of K, Ca, Mg and SO4 are also higher than those of shallow groundwater; from its chemistry, the brine is likely derived from seawater and comparison with shallow groundwater does not indicate mixing.
Gas produced at McCully is methane (91 -- 94%) with ethane (2 -- 6%) and propane (0.1 -- 1%). Isotopic analyses of the methane suggest a thermogenic origin. No ethane or propane was measured in the groundwater and methane was detected in 3 domestic wells. Concentrations are very low (0.01, 0.11 and 1.17 mg/L); the 3 samples are outside the McCully gas field area. Two of these samples had enough methane for isotopic analyses, one suggestive of a thermogenic origin and the other is enriched in 2H that could be related to oxidation of methane.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
A study of the water chemistry from 26 domestic wells in the area of Sussex and Elgin in the general area of the McCully gas field, southern New Brunswick led to the characterization of elemental composition of the groundwater as well as the isotopic characterization of dissolved methane. Deep brines and gas samples from the McCully gas field were also analyzed for comparison. The groundwater chemistry is totally different from that of the brine and only 3 samples, outside the surface extension of the gas field, had detectable levels on methane (no ethane or propane were detected). The hydrogen and carbon isotope values of the methane indicate a likely thermogenic source.