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Winter 2016

Inquiry Magazine Archive

  • Spring 2016

    Spring 2016: Premium Blend

    Found in everything from space shuttles to dental fillings, composite materials have thoroughly infiltrated modern society. But their potential is still greatly untapped, offering researchers ample opportunity for discovery.

  • Fall 2015

    Fall 2015: Collision Course

    Within the particle showers created at the Large Hadron Collider, answers to some of the universe’s mysteries are waiting.

  • Spring 2015

    Spring 2015: Almost Human

    Model systems like pigeons can help illuminate our own evolutionary and genomic history.

  • Fall 2014

    Fall 2014: Small Wonder

    UT Arlington's tiny windmills are bringing renewable energy to a whole new scale.

  • Winter 2014

    Winter 2014: Overdue for an Overhaul

    The stability of our highways, pipelines, and even manholes is reaching a breaking point.

  • 2012

    2012: Mystery solved?

    Scientists believe they have discovered a subatomic particle that is crucial to understanding the universe.

  • 2011

    2011: Boosting brain power

    UT Arlington researchers unlock clues to the human body’s most mysterious and complex organ.

  • 2010

    2010: Powered by genetics

    UT Arlington researchers probe the hidden world of microbes in search of renewable energy sources.

  • 2009

    2009: Winning the battle against pain

    Wounded soldiers are benefiting from Robert Gatchel’s program that combines physical rehabilitation with treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • 2009

    2007: Sensing a solution

    Tiny sensors implanted in the body show promise in combating acid reflux disease, pain and other health problems.

  • 2006

    2006:Semiconductors: The next generation

    Nanotechnology researchers pursue hybrid silicon chips with life-saving potential.

  • 2005

    2005: Imaging is everything

    Biomedical engineers combat diseases with procedures that are painless to patients.


Frack Effects

Research shows that hydraulic fracturing causes sporadic changes in groundwater quality 

Oil and Gas Drilling

Fracking and other methods of drilling for oil and gas can have a significant effect on groundwater

Efforts to drill for oil—particularly new technologies like hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking"—come with their share of controversy. New research by scientists at UTA is adding to that conversation, as it has found that fracking and horizontal drilling do cause changes in groundwater quality, but air contamination from hazardous chemicals is likely due to operational inefficiencies, not the process itself.

For the first study, researchers collected and analyzed samples of water from private wells in the Permian Basin over 13 months. They found chlorinated solvents, alcohols, and aromatic compounds present in the water exclusively after multiple experimental oil wells had been activated nearby. The team also detected large fluctuations in pH and total organic carbon levels, as well as a gradual accumulation of bromide.

"These levels and changes are abnormal for typical groundwater quality," says lead author Kevin Schug, the Shimadzu Distinguished Professor of Analytical Chemistry. "But the results also suggest that contamination from unconventional drilling may be variable and sporadic, not systematic, and that some of the toxic compounds associated with high amounts of unconventional drilling may degrade or become diluted within the aquifer over time."

The study, developed in collaboration with the University of North Texas, Baylor University, and sampling firm Inform Environmental LLC, is the first to analyze groundwater quality in the Cline Shale stretch of West Texas before, during, and after the expansion of fracking and horizontal drilling.

In a separate but related study, Dr. Schug and his team investigated the air quality in and around fracking gas drilling sites in the Eagle Ford shale region. Their findings, published in Science of the Total Environment, showed that the highly variable levels of ambient BTEX—benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, and xylene compounds—present at the sites were the result of operational inefficiencies.

"These variable contamination events—attributable in many cases to specific natural gas flaring units, condensation tanks, compressor units, and hydrogen sulfide scavengers—indicate that mechanical inefficiencies, not the inherent nature of the extraction process as a whole, result in the release of these compounds into the environment," Schug explains.

More articles from this issue

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