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Project Type
Faculty-Initiated Research
Project Dates
08/01/2014 - 10/31/2015
Principal Investigators
Project Status

Transportation agencies are required to treat roads for dust and ice control to ensure adequate safety for travelers. This is commonly achieved through application of solid and liquid chemicals. These materials can be conventional rock salt, brine from rock salt, natural brine, or oil and gas brine. Due to the high cost of treating roads for the removal of snow and ice, in states with active oil and gas wells such as New York, the potential for using this brine to control dust or ice on roads is currently being explored.

Environmental concerns exist over the use of conventional oil and gas brines due to their potential high total dissolved solids and metals concentrations. They can also be elevated in organic compounds and can contain certain chemical additives. In 2012, New York State production of natural gas was 26.4 billion cubic feet while oil production was 394,507 barrels. It has been estimated that 30 percent of the brine produced alongside the oil and gas is disposed of via road spreading. Although unconventional natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale in New York State is currently not permitted, the extraction of Marcellus Shale gas is allowed in other states (e.g., Pennsylvania) where the associated unconventional brine is used for road spreading. If conventional or unconventional oil and gas brine is applied to roadways for dust or ice control, there is the potential for runoff to impact receiving water or roadside soil. The environmental impact of the leaching of chemical components from soil impacted with oil and gas brine applied for transportation purposes is unknown.

The objective of this work is to determine the potential for chemicals found in oil and gas brine to leach from soil to groundwater. Leaching studies will be conducted to compare conventional oil and gas brine and unconventional oil and gas brine. A literature review will be conducted to determine the volume and chemical characteristics of brine applied to roadways for dust or ice control. The chemicals of concern will be identified and the leaching potential of these chemicals will be determined through toxicity characteristic leaching (TCLP) tests and synthetic precipitation leaching (SPLP) tests. This work will provide local and national transportation agencies with important data regarding the environmental impacts of oil and gas brine applications.