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Open-File Report 2012–1162

Prepared in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Dissolved Methane in New York Groundwater, 1999—2011

By William M. Kappel and Elizabeth A. Nystrom

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (1.41 MB)Introduction

New York State is underlain by numerous bedrock formations of Cambrian to Devonian age that produce natural gas and to a lesser extent oil. The first commercial gas well in the United States was dug in the early 1820s in Fredonia, south of Buffalo, New York, and produced methane from Devonian-age black shale. Methane naturally discharges to the land surface at some locations in New York. At Chestnut Ridge County Park in Erie County, just south of Buffalo, N.Y., several surface seeps of natural gas occur from Devonian black shale, including one behind a waterfall. Methane occurs locally in the groundwater of New York; as a result, it may be present in drinking-water wells, in the water produced from those wells, and in the associated water-supply systems (Eltschlager and others, 2001).

The natural gas in low-permeability bedrock formations has not been accessible by traditional extraction techniques, which have been used to tap more permeable sandstone and carbonate bedrock reservoirs. However, newly developed techniques involving horizontal drilling and high-volume hydraulic fracturing have made it possible to extract previously inaccessible natural gas from low-permeability bedrock such as the Marcellus and Utica Shales. The use of hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas from these shale formations has raised concerns with water-well owners and water-resource managers across the Marcellus and Utica Shale region (West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and parts of several other adjoining States). Molofsky and others (2011) documented the widespread natural occurrence of methane in drinking-water wells in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. In the same county, Osborn and others (2011) identified elevated methane concentrations in selected drinking-water wells in the vicinity of Marcellus gas-development activities, although pre-development samples were not available for comparison. In order to manage water resources in areas of gas-well drilling and hydraulic fracturing in New York, the natural occurrence of methane in the State’s aquifers needs to be documented. This brief report presents a compilation of data on dissolved methane concentrations in the groundwater of New York available from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Information System (NWIS) (http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis).

First posted September 4, 2012

For additional information contact:
Director
U.S. Geological Survey
New York Water Science Center
425 Jordan Road
Troy, NY 12180
(518) 285-5600
http://ny.water.usgs.gov/

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Suggested citation:

Kappel, W.M., and Nystrom, E.A., 2012, Dissolved methane in New York groundwater, 1999—2011: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2012-1162, 6 p., at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2012/1162.



Contents

Introduction

Methane

New York Bedrock and Natural Gas and Oil Stratigraphy

Dissolved Methane Concentration Data in New York

Results

References


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