Davis Tracy A.

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Tracy A.

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  • Article
    Occurrence and sources of radium in groundwater associated with oil fields in the southern San Joaquin Valley, California
    (American Chemical Society, 2019-08-07) McMahon, Peter B. ; Vengosh, Avner ; Davis, Tracy A. ; Landon, Matthew K. ; Tyne, Rebecca L. ; Wright, Michael T. ; Kulongoski, Justin T. ; Hunt, Andrew G. ; Barry, Peter H. ; Kondash, Andrew J. ; Wang, Zhen ; Ballentine, Christopher J.
    Geochemical data from 40 water wells were used to examine the occurrence and sources of radium (Ra) in groundwater associated with three oil fields in California (Fruitvale, Lost Hills, South Belridge). 226Ra+228Ra activities (range = 0.010–0.51 Bq/L) exceeded the 0.185 Bq/L drinking-water standard in 18% of the wells (not drinking-water wells). Radium activities were correlated with TDS concentrations (p < 0.001, ρ = 0.90, range = 145–15,900 mg/L), Mn + Fe concentrations (p < 0.001, ρ = 0.82, range = <0.005–18.5 mg/L), and pH (p < 0.001, ρ = −0.67, range = 6.2–9.2), indicating Ra in groundwater was influenced by salinity, redox, and pH. Ra-rich groundwater was mixed with up to 45% oil-field water at some locations, primarily infiltrating through unlined disposal ponds, based on Cl, Li, noble-gas, and other data. Yet 228Ra/226Ra ratios in pond-impacted groundwater (median = 3.1) differed from those in oil-field water (median = 0.51). PHREEQC mixing calculations and spatial geochemical variations suggest that the Ra in the oil-field water was removed by coprecipitation with secondary barite and adsorption on Mn–Fe precipitates in the near-pond environment. The saline, organic-rich oil-field water subsequently mobilized Ra from downgradient aquifer sediments via Ra-desorption and Mn/Fe-reduction processes. This study demonstrates that infiltration of oil-field water may leach Ra into groundwater by changing salinity and redox conditions in the subsurface rather than by mixing with a high-Ra source.
  • Article
    Noble gas signatures constrain oil-field water as the carrier phase of hydrocarbons occurring in shallow aquifers in the San Joaquin Basin, USA
    (Elsevier, 2021-08-18) Karolytė, Rūta ; Barry, Peter H. ; Hunt, Andrew G. ; Kulongoski, Justin T. ; Tyne, Rebecca L. ; Davis, Tracy A. ; Wright, Michael T. ; McMahon, Peter B. ; Ballentine, Christopher J.
    Noble gases record fluid interactions in multiphase subsurface environments through fractionation processes during fluid equilibration. Water in the presence of hydrocarbons at the subsurface acquires a distinct elemental signature due to the difference in solubility between these two fluids. We find the atmospheric noble gas signature in produced water is partially preserved after hydrocarbons production and water disposal to unlined ponds at the surface. This signature is distinct from meteoric water and can be used to trace oil-field water seepage into groundwater aquifers. We analyse groundwater (n = 30) and fluid disposal pond (n = 2) samples from areas overlying or adjacent to the Fruitvale, Lost Hills, and South Belridge Oil Fields in the San Joaquin Basin, California, USA. Methane (2.8 × 10−7 to 3 × 10−2 cm3 STP/cm3) was detected in 27 of 30 groundwater samples. Using atmospheric noble gas signatures, the presence of oil-field water was identified in 3 samples, which had equilibrated with thermogenic hydrocarbons in the reservoir. Two (of the three) samples also had a shallow microbial methane component, acquired when produced water was deposited in a disposal pond at the surface. An additional 6 samples contained benzene and toluene, indicative of interaction with oil-field water; however, the noble gas signatures of these samples are not anomalous. Based on low tritium and 14C contents (≤ 0.3 TU and 0.87–6.9 pcm, respectively), the source of oil-field water is likely deep, which could include both anthropogenic and natural processes. Incorporating noble gas analytical techniques into the groundwater monitoring programme allows us to 1) differentiate between thermogenic and microbial hydrocarbon gas sources in instances when methane isotope data are unavailable, 2) identify the carrier phase of oil-field constituents in the aquifer (gas, oil-field water, or a combination), and 3) differentiate between leakage from a surface source (disposal ponds) and from the hydrocarbon reservoir (either along natural or anthropogenic pathways such as faulty wells).