Stray Gas Methane – The Next Big Problem?

Methane has been identified in drinking water wells and/or the basements of homes in Pennsylvania and other places. Some have loudly claimed that the mere presence of methane is proof that hydraulic fracturing for natural gas has contaminated water supplies and put people at risk. Others have begun to research the potential sources of stray gas methane and have arrived at a different, more scientifically based, explanation. In doing so, they have raised a new concern which may foster a wave of litigation against oil and gas drillers and operators.

Methane is an odorless and colorless gas and is the primary component of natural gas. Stray gas methane is a natural hydrocarbon which has migrated for various reasons from its original location in the subsurface into the atmosphere, shallow groundwater, drinking water supplies, or enclosed spaces. Stray gas methane is of two types: thermogenic or biogenic. Thermogenic gas is formed during the ancient deposition of organic material and its subsequent heating through pressure. Although mostly methane, it also includes ethane, propane, and butane. It is commonly associated with subsurface oil and gas deposits. Biogenic gas is almost all methane, is formed by microbial fermentation of organic matter in the near surface, and is not associated with oil and gas deposits. Continue reading “Stray Gas Methane – The Next Big Problem?”