FEMS Microbiol Ecol. 2012 Jul ;81(1):13-25. Epub 2011 Nov 1. PMID: 22066833

Abstract Title: 

Bacterial communities associated with hydraulic fracturing fluids in thermogenic natural gas wells in North Central Texas, USA.


Hydraulic fracturing is used to increase the permeability of shale gas formations and involves pumping large volumes of fluids into these formations. A portion of the frac fluid remains in the formation after the fracturing process is complete, which could potentially contribute to deleterious microbially induced processes in natural gas wells. Here, we report on the geochemical and microbiological properties of frac and flowback waters from two newly drilled natural gas wells in the Barnett Shale in North Central Texas. Most probable number studies showed that biocide treatments did not kill all the bacteria in the fracturing fluids. Pyrosequencing-based 16S rRNA diversity analyses indicated that the microbial communities in the flowback waters were less diverse and completely distinct from the communities in frac waters. These differences in frac and flowback water communities appeared to reflect changes in the geochemistry of fracturing fluids that occurred during the frac process. The flowback communities also appeared well adapted to survive biocide treatments and the anoxic conditions and high temperatures encountered in the Barnett Shale.