Avner Vengosh Presents Keynote at International Geochemistry Symposium

October 2, 2011

Tim Lucas, 919-613-8084, tdlucas@duke.edu

DURHAM, N.C. – Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, presented the keynote address at the 9th annual International Symposium on Applied Isotope Geochemistry, September 19-23, in Tarragona, Spain.

Vengosh also received the 2011 International Association of Geochemistry Fellow Award at the conference.

In his keynote, “An Overview of the Energy-Water Quality Nexus: Using Isotopic Tools to Elucidate the Impact of the Energy Production on Water Resources in the U.S.,” he presented findings from a recent peer-reviewed study that used cutting-edge isotopic analysis, among other tools, to assess methane contamination in shallow private water wells in a five-county region overlying the Marcellus Shale formation in northeastern Pennsylvania and New York.

The study, published in May of this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found high levels of methane with a thermogenic isotopic imprint in water wells located within a kilometer of sites where hydraulic fracturing technology was being used to extract natural gas from shale formations deep beneath the surface.  The study did not find evidence of well-water contamination from so-called “fracking fluids” or produced water.

“I was very pleased that the audience, which was composed of the world’s leading scientists in the fields of applied geochemistry and isotope hydrology, was very receptive to the scientific approach we took in our study, and also enthusiastic in their support for its findings,” Vengosh says.

Stephen Osborn, a former post-doctoral researcher at the Nicholas School and Duke’s Center on Global Change, was lead author of the PNAS study.  In addition to Vengosh, the other authors of the paper were Robert B. Jackson, Nicholas Professor of Global Environmental Change and director of the Center on Global Change, and Nathaniel Warner, a PhD student of Vengosh’s.