Researchers at ASU have developed a method for identifying fracking locations and monitoring groundwater contamination by using boron (B) and lithium (Li) as inorganic biomarkers in the hydrocarbon-tracing process. As kerogen and coal thermally mature into gas and oil, heavier isotopes of B and Li become more abundant and accumulate in the bitumen. This provides a stable isotropic tracer that is independent of organic compounds and not redox-sensitive, directly linking bitumen and other hydrocarbon by-products back to their source rock. This method can also be used to monitor leakage of organic contaminants into local groundwater, or to track polluted aerosols back to a coal burning power plant.
- Hydraulic Fracking
- Groundwater Remediation
Benefits and Advantages
- Direct – Simplifies oil-source rock connections.
- Effective – Maximizes recovery of oil and gas from unconventional reservoirs.
- Environmental – Can be used to monitor potential mixing of hydraulic fracturing by-products with local groundwater.
- Reliable – B and Li are not sensitive to oxidation so core sample redox conditions will not alter isotopic ratios.
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