New paper out from our group investigating the microbial communities in wastewater from hydraulic fracturing in the Bakken Shale region. The work was collaborative with the National Energy Technology Lab and North Dakota State University.
Paper abstract: The Bakken Shale has become one of the United States’ most important oil and gas producing regions. This study examined the microbiology and geochemical characteristics of Bakken region produced water from 17 well sites sampled from the three-phase separator and produced water holding tank over a six-month time frame. Produced water samples had high total dissolved solids (TDS) (220,000 mg/L – 350,000 mg/L) and low dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations (41 mg/L – 132 mg/L). Microbial abundances varied between 101–104 16S rRNA gene copies/mL, approximately four orders of magnitude below those observed for produced waters from other hydraulic fracturing regions. The most abundant bacterial orders found in produced water samples were Bacillales, Halanaerobiales, and Pseudomonadales, consistent with observations from other unconventional resource plays. Our observations suggest temporal community structuring, as produced waters sampled early in our sampling period were dominated by Halanaerobiales, and produced waters sampled at the remaining winter sampling time points were characterized by high relative abundances of Bacillales and Pseudomonadales. Data from this study extends the current available knowledge of the microbiology and chemistry associated with produced water from the Bakken region and provides insights into microbial community dynamics in hypersaline subsurface fluids.