Methane and Benzene in Drinking-Water Wells Overlying the Eagle Ford, Fayetteville, and Haynesville Shale Hydrocarbon Production Areas

Water wells (<i>n</i> = 116) overlying the Eagle Ford, Fayetteville, and Haynesville Shale hydrocarbon production areas were sampled for chemical, isotopic, and groundwater-age tracers to investigate the occurrence and sources of selected hydrocarbons in groundwater. Methane isotopes and hydrocarbon gas compositions indicate most of the methane in the wells was biogenic and produced by the CO<sub>2</sub> reduction pathway, not from thermogenic shale gas. Two samples contained methane from the fermentation pathway that could be associated with hydrocarbon degradation based on their co-occurrence with hydrocarbons such as ethylbenzene and butane. Benzene was detected at low concentrations (<0.15 μg/L), but relatively high frequencies (2.4–13.3% of samples), in the study areas. Eight of nine samples containing benzene had groundwater ages >2500 years, indicating the benzene was from subsurface sources such as natural hydrocarbon migration or leaking hydrocarbon wells. One sample contained benzene that could be from a surface release associated with hydrocarbon production activities based on its age (10 ± 2.4 years) and proximity to hydrocarbon wells. Groundwater travel times inferred from the age-data indicate decades or longer may be needed to fully assess the effects of potential subsurface and surface releases of hydrocarbons on the wells.