Webinar to Discuss Research on Baseline Sampling of Water Sources in Shale Development Regions

Posted: January 7, 2016

Shale oil and gas development has sparked concern about the water quality of water sources near drilling activity. Companies take ‘pre-drill’ baseline water samples to monitor water changes through the shale operations. The January 21st shale webinar will focus on an extensive research project on baseline sampling protocol.


The webinar, “Baseline Sampling of Water Sources in Areas of Shale Oil and Gas Development” will feature Ann Smith and Stephen Richardson from GSI Environmental, Inc., the lead organization of a multi-year, multi-component research project examining the environmental effects of shale gas operations. “In many areas of shale oil and gas development, sampling of local water sources such as residential water wells, springs, and ponds prior to drilling activities has become standard practice for oil and gas operators”, states Richardson. “Sampling results establish “baseline” water quality conditions prior to the drilling of nearby oil or gas wells, and can be used to evaluate whether changes in water quality between “pre-drill” and “post-drill” timeframes are related to drilling and extraction operations.”

“We will discuss ongoing research on baseline sampling protocols, focusing on variations in regulatory requirements, the effects of different sample collection methods on dissolved hydrocarbon gas concentrations, and critical geochemical lines of evidence for interpreting whether a change in water quality is associated with natural variability or a potential impact from oil and gas operations. Study results will be incorporated into a protocol for baseline sampling in areas of shale oil and gas development, to be issued in 2016.”

“Oil and gas operators are compiling large databases that contain a wealth of information on regional water quality in major shale plays” Smith said. “However, there is no clear understanding of how different sampling protocols affect the analytical results, making comparison of water quality data within and between shale plays problematic. Guidelines that include accurate and consistent sampling protocols, as well as up-to-date information on the interpretation of that data, are key to understanding when an impact has occurred – and that is what we’re striving to achieve in this project.”

All are welcome to join the webinar on Thursday, January 21st  from 1 to 2 PM ET. While free, registrations for the educational webinars are necessary. All can go to the Penn State Extension Natural Gas Events page to register and to find out more information for each upcoming webinar. For more information, contact Carol Loveland at 570-320-4429 or by email at

Penn State Extension's Marcellus Education Team provides monthly webinars on a variety of topics. Upcoming webinars for 2016 include:

  • February 11 - Energy Infrastructure and Cyber Security, Commissioner Pamela A. Witmer, PA Public Utility Commission
  • February 18 - Proppants and their Role in Hydraulic Fracturing, Michael O’Neill, CEO, Preferred Sands
  • March 10 - Renewed Competitiveness for U.S. Plastics from Shale Energy, Martha Gilchrist Moore, CBE, Senior Director, Policy Analysis and Economics, American Chemistry Council
  • April 28 - Evolving Roles of Shale Gas in Central and Distributed Power Generation Scenarios, Dr. James Freihaut, Penn State  Agricultural Engineering; Technical Director, eebHub at Philly Navy Yard

Previous webinars, publications and information also are available on the Penn State Extension Natural Gas website, covering a variety of topics such as UAVs in the Energy field, seismic testing, methane emissions; water use and quality; Marcellus and Utica basins; natural gas reserves; gas-leasing considerations for landowners; legal issues surrounding gas development; and the impact of Marcellus gas development on forestland.