Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Shikha Sharma

Committee Co-Chair

Timm Carr

Committee Member

Doug Chambers


One of the main challenges associated with Marcellus Formation shale gas development is to ensure proper management and disposal of flowback water produced as a result of hydraulic fracturing of gas wells. The flowback water consists of a mixture of returned frac'ing fluids and highly saline formation brines. As a result, improper management or disposal of this flowback can potentially contaminate the fresh surface waters and groundwaters of the area. To better assess any detrimental effect on water quality, there is need to understand the natural geochemical variations prior to the rapid expansion of gas drilling in the area.;This study focuses on documenting the baseline geochemical characteristics of groundwaters in different formations lying stratigraphically above the Marcellus Formation. 41 groundwater well sites in north central West Virginia were sampled with the USGS Water Science Center of West Virginia. These private and public sampling locations were chosen from within the United States Geological Survey database and represent different formation aquifers with differing well depths. Geochemical data was obtained for major cations and anions, dissolved gas concentrations of methane, oxygen and hydrogen isotopic compositions of water (delta18OH2O and delta 2HH2O), carbon isotopic compositions of dissolved inorganic carbon (delta13CDIC), sulfur and oxygen isotope compositions of dissolved sulfate (delta34SSO4 and delta18OSO4) and carbon and hydrogen isotope compositions of dissolved methane (delta13CCH4 and delta2HCH4). Field parameters of temperature, conductivity, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and oxidation reduction potential were also collected. I hypothesize that the baseline variations of stable isotopes can be used in conjunction with other geochemical parameters to identify groundwater aquifers that have received significant contribution from frac flowback waters.