Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Shikha Sharma

Committee Co-Chair

Mark Kozar

Committee Member

Ryan Shackleton


Stray gas in groundwater is a rising health and safety concern and previous research has documented the enhancement of deep fluid migration to shallow aquifers by shale gas activity. However, stray gas can be generated or migrate naturally into shallow aquifers and more research is needed to establish baseline conditions prior to energy development in a region. A previous survey of groundwater in central West Virginia revealed that some high stray gas concentrations in groundwater wells could possibly be related to coal mining or oil and gas development (Mulder 2012). However, a few wells in Randolph County had high levels of dissolved methane (up to 48 mg/L) unrelated to historical or current energy development. This study aims to document and understand naturally high levels of stray gas and geochemistry of groundwaters in an area that has not yet seen any oil or gas development. 35 groundwater wells were sampled in Randolph and Pocahontas Counties, West Virginia to understand baseline conditions of naturally high levels of stray gas and attempt to determine the source of the gas and elucidate the most likely controls on the occurrences in this geologic setting. While the majority of the sampled wells have low methane levels (89% of wells have concentrations less than 1 mg/L), three wells, Ran-02, Ran-23 and Ran-12 have concentrations of 40.0, 14.0 and 9.7 mg/L respectively. Results indicate that stray gas migration in this area is likely controlled by highly localized structural controls such as natural faults or fractures creating pathways or conduits for deep fluid to migrate from depth. More work is needed to map the study area in order to determine precise fracture trends, but preliminary lineament tracing and field observations indicate that there is the potential for fractures to create the necessary pathway.