Vadose Zone Gas Migration and Leaking Wells with Olenka Forde


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“Vadose Zone Gas Migration and Surface Effluxes after a Controlled Natural Gas Release into an Unconfined Shallow Aquifer” with Olenka Forde.

Olenka Forde thinks a lot about a world that we’ll never see – the world existing right underneath our feet. Olenka’s research is related to hydraulic fracturing and she is interested in how we can safely extract oil and gas resources without negative impacts on fresh water supply, wildlife, and even humans. She does this by monitoring the fate and transport of gases in the subsurface and emissions at the ground surface at a controlled natural gas release experiment, essentially simulating what happens when a gas well leaks.

Gas leakage at oil and gas wells is an old problem, but has garnered renewed interest with the advent of hydraulic fracturing. Hydraulic fracturing is a process that works to free valuable natural gas from beneath rock deep in the earth through injecting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals at a very high pressure. The gas is released through these cracks and up through a constructed well to the surface for collection. Occasionally; however, sealing of wells is imperfect and gas present along the borehole escapes, causing the potential for groundwater contamination and surface emissions. Olenka works to map the pathway of gases after the point of release, eventually with the goal of creating improved action plans for industry professionals to keep people and the environment safe. Tune in to learn about her research and find answers to questions such as:

  • What’s the difference between an unconventional and conventional gas well?
  • What makes a well leak?
  • What are the risks associated with gas leakage?
  • What happens to gas after it enters an aquifer?
  • Why can it be challenging to find gas leakage?
  • What’s a flux chamber?

If you would like more information about this topic, this episode’s paper is available here:

This paper is always freely available.

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If you would like to reach out to Olenka, you can find her here:


CEU Quiz:

Cahill, 2017:

Cahill, 2018:

Steelman, 2017:

Vidic, 2013:

Alvarez, 2018:

Soeder, 2018:

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