UB geologist Tracy Bank and colleagues found that uranium and hydrocarbons in Marcellus shale are not just physically, but also chemically, bound.
Scientific and political disputes over drilling Marcellus shale for natural gas have focused primarily on the environmental effects of pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground to blast through rocks to release the natural gas.
But University at Buffalo researchers have now found that that process -- called hydraulic fracturing or "fracking"-- also causes uranium that is naturally trapped inside Marcellus shale to be released, raising additional environmental concerns.
The research will be presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver on Nov. 2.
See: Casey Junkins. November 20, 2010. The Intelligencer Wheeling News-Register. "Profs: Wells Pose Threat: Fracking lets loose uranium, other hazards".
Dan Bain, assistant professor of geology at Pitt, and Radisav Vidic, professor of environmental engineering at Pitt, expressed concern about drilling for gas in areas throughout West Virginia and Pennsylvania because of the region's great history of coal production.
"Pennsylvania is filled with abandoned coal mines. I don't want to see this happen with gas drilling," Bain said.
An AB Resources well site about 6 miles outside Moundsville's city limits was home to a June 7 explosion, due to workers breaching a pocket of methane in an old coal mine. After injuring several workers, the charge ignited a large fireball that burned for several days.