DCO Project Summary

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Project Title
Microbial Genomic Reconstructions from Hydraulically Fractured Shale Fluids Reveal Community-wide Biogeochemical Cycling and Phage Signatures
Start DateEnd Date
2014-05-01 2014-12-31
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The shale gas basins in the Ohio-Pennsylvania-New York region contain the largest natural gas reserves in the U.S. In 2012, over 7,000 Marcellus shale gas wells were active in Pennsylvania, and Ohio is expecting a similar level of development in its deeper, Utica-Point Pleasant shale over the next 5 years. These shales have insufficient permeability to produce natural gas at economical rates, thus their development requires horizontal drilling coupled to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. The hydraulic fracturing process involves wellbore detonation and high-pressure injection of large volumes (up to 20 million L) of freshwater and sand mixed with chemical additives to propagate fissures in the shale matrix, maximizing the surface area for natural gas release to the wellbore. As a result of fracturing, larger flow paths and newly exposed shale surfaces offer greater biogeochemical gradients for microbial colonization with greater opportunities for nutrient and genetic exchange. We know little about the indigenous microbial membership of Marcellus shale, but given current physicochemical conditions of this formation (depths > 1000 m, pressures > than 50 MPa, temperatures > 60ºC, 20% salt content, and pore sizes < 1 μm) we anticipate that organisms enriched during energy development will encode adaptations to these physical and geochemical conditions. Our motivation is to understand the biotic and engineered factors responsible for altering microbial community structure and biogeochemical cycling in these deep subsurface ecosystems. To better understand the metabolic capabilities and adaptation of these organisms, the DCO Census of Deep Life program supported our 2013 proposal to conduct community genomic sequencing for three time points after fracturing. Our goal for this new CoDL project is to identify viral roles in controlling microbial abundance, manipulating genetic content, and impacting biogeochemical cycling in deep shale environments.

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Reporting Year 2014 Click to expand

  • RY2014-1 - submitted on Aug 31, 2014

    Update Details:

    Samples will soon arrive at the MBL for DNA sequencing.

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