Marcellus Shale Coalition Dissolved Methane Method Study

Oral Presentation

Prepared by R. Vitale1, D. Yost2, J. Smelko3, L. Anderson4, D. Gratson1, S. Brower1, L. Work1
1 - Environmental Standards, Inc., 1140 Valley Forge Road, PO Box 810, Valley Forge, PA, 19482, United States
2 - Chesapeake Energy Corporation, PO Box 18496, Oklahoma City, OK, 73154, United States
3 - Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, Five Penn Center West, Suite 401, Pittsburgh, PA, 15276, United States
4 - Marcellus Shale Coalition, 24 Summit Park Drive, 2nd Fl., Pittsburgh, PA, 15275, United States

Contact Information: [email protected]; 610-935-5577


The practice of unconventional hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the Appalachian Marcellus Shale formation has received intense media, political, and regulatory agency attention. The quality and defensibility of domestic groundwater well data is critical for the protection of human health and the environment and in determining the regulatory compliance as it relates to oil and gas exploration and production activities.

In reviewing years of dissolved methane concentrations generated by accredited laboratories, member companies of the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) have been concerned with the disparity reported between laboratories during split sampling events. Because of this concern, the MSC commissioned a study to better understand the source(s) of the disparate dissolved methane concentrations. Environmental Standards, Inc., a quality oversight consulting company, was selected to conduct a round robin laboratory study. In November 2014, samples were collected from two domestic water wells and were submitted to 15 laboratories for the analysis of dissolved methane.

There are several published analytical procedures for the analysis of dissolved light gases in the aqueous medium, but there is not a published method at the federal level. Accordingly, any laboratory performing dissolved light gas analysis must develop their own analytical procedures resulting in potentially significant variation among laboratories. The study included collection of detailed information from each participating laboratory regarding their procedures for sample storage and handling, sample preparation, analysis, and calculation of concentration, thereby potentially identifying critical laboratory variables that influence the quantitation of dissolved methane in groundwater.

Disparate dissolved methane results were reported, validating the MSC’s observations and concerns. An overview of the study design and the findings, including recommendations, will be presented.