Fracking Studies Earn ‘Most Cited’ and ‘Highly Read’ Accolades

August 1, 2017

Tim Lucas, 919/613-8084,

DURHAM, N.C. – Two Nicholas School studies on the environmental impacts of fracking have been recognized as being among the most read and highly cited peer-reviewed papers published in American Chemical Society (ACS) journals in the past five years.

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Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality
(Photo: Duke University)

The editors of the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) Letters have tapped the 2015 paper, “Water Footprint of Hydraulic Fracturing,” by PhD student Andrew Kondash and Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality, as one of their five Highly Read Editors’ Choice selections.

Kondash and Vengosh’s paper was the first to calculate the total amount of water used and wastewater produced by fracking operations in the United States. It found that companies used 250 billion gallons of water to extract unconventional shale gas and oil from fracked wells between 2005 and 2014 – a number that seems large but accounts for only 1 percent of all industrial water use nationwide. The study further showed that fracked wells generate about half of a barrel of wastewater for each barrel of oil produced, while conventional wells on land generate more than three barrels of wastewater for each barrel of oil.

A 2013 paper by Vengosh’s lab, “Impacts of Shale Gas Wastewater on Water Quality in Western Pennsylvania” has been recognized as one of the five most cited articles published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The study, which Vengosh conducted with Nicholas School PhD graduate Nathaniel Warner, documented high levels of radioactivity, salts and metals in water and sediments at a site where oil and gas wastewater was discharged into a western Pennsylvania creek. Radium levels in sediment at the site were about 200 times greater than in samples collected upstream. Former Nic School faculty member Robert Jackson and Master of Environmental Management student Cidney Christie co-authored the study with Warner and Vengosh.

In recognition of both the high quality and high volume of his lab’s scholarly output, ACS editors have honored Vengosh as one of the journal ES&T Letters’ ten most highly prolific authors over the past five years.