Friday 18 Nov 2016Modelling the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on groundwater contamination and assessing the risks for a potential UK shale gas industry

Olivia Milton-Thompson - University of Exeter WISE CDT

Harrison 170 14:00-15:00


Methods of finding new sources of energy are in constant motion as the world finds itself rapidly running out of fossil fuels. Hydraulic fracturing and the search for shale gas became a huge operation in the US and was very successful in reducing oil prices significantly and providing the US with an alternative solution to increasing energy demands.  However, the process came at a cost and the technique for shale gas drilling has developed a controversial outlook, particularly related to groundwater contamination.

The technique has now made its way across the pond to the UK and exploratory work has demonstrated the potential to develop a fracturing shale industry in the UK. However, aquifers are vital groundwater resources for freshwater for the population and the fracturing procedure has elevated concerns over the contamination of these aquifers. The need for further research is pressing as governments are in conflict with local councils to begin drilling, but without a current industry in the UK, how can scientists predict future levels of contamination if the industry were to take off?

This presentation will start by introducing the operation of hydraulic fracturing and how the process works. The potential risks to groundwater that can occur before, during and after the process will be outlined and an introduction to the Integrated Assessment Modelling approach will be discussed which supports how the risks will be quantified during research.



Olivia Milton-Thompson (MSc, BSc, MRSC) PhD Researcher at University of Exeter – WISE CDT. Olivia started on the WISE CDT course in September 2015 and has been working on her research since June 2016. She has a varied academic background with a BSc in Chemistry from Durham University and an MSc in Water Management from Cranfield University. She spent a summer working at the University of Nevada, Reno in the Environmental Chemistry department on a project related to groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing, where she originally developed her interest in this subject. She also spent a year working as an analytical chemist before beginning her Master’s degree.

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