Fracking in Bakken, ND leaves 9,700 wells producing 119million m³ of wastewater: Study
Unconventional oil and gas production from hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the Bakken region in North Dakota has been rising significantly since 2007. Some 9,700 unconventional wells have produced an estimated 119 million cubic meters of oil and gas wastewater (OGW), according to a new study.
Map of western North Dakota that includes well density (number of wells per 5 km radius), reported brine spills from 2007 to 2015 (red circles), and sampling sites of samples collected in July 2015 (green triangles). Note the association between spill locations and well density, with higher occurrences of spills in areas of high well density. Spill data were compiled from the North Dakota Department of Health and include both contained and uncontained brine spills. Oil well data were downloaded from the North Dakota Industrial Commission, Oil and Gas Division. [Image source]
“In 2014, the Bakken region was producing an average of over 1 million barrels of oil per day, compared to production levels that consistently lingered at approximately 100 thousand barrels per day before 2007. This rapid rise in production has been made possible by intense development of oil and gas infrastructure in western North Dakota, including approximately 9700 unconventional wells that have produced an estimated 31.4 × 10 9 gallons (118.9 × 10 9 L) of oil and gas wastewater (OGW).”
In addition to the elevated concentrations of major elements—Na, Cl, Br—the study found Bakken brines are rich in “metals, metalloids and other potential contaminants” including Se, V, Sr, Li, B, Mn, Ni, Cd, Cu, Zn, Ba, Pb, Ra, NH4, all of which have “human and ecological health implications.”
NORM in the Bakken Brines and Impact on Spill Sites
Produced waters can have elevated levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM), primarily the long-lived radium isotopes 228Ra. Read More…
The study Brine Spills Associated with Unconventional Oil Development in North Dakota was conducted by the Division of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, N.C.