According to new research published in November in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, Joshua Thienpont and colleagues at Queen’s University discovered that drilling sumps that are related to hydrocarbon extraction can cause major issues with aquatic ecosystems.
Although they are a major source of energy and combustible fuel, hydrocarbons are a big source of greenhouse gases and tax the environment.
Drilling fluids are saline, so the researchers measured changes in conductivity to determine if leakage to surface waters was occurring. They hypothesized that if saline-rich wastes from drilling sumps were impacting lakes, there would be changes in the types of life forms present. There were.
A key component of aquatic ecosystems are zooplankton, and various species survive differently in saline versus fresh water. By analyzing sediment from lakes, changes in the zooplankton composition were determined to be the result of sump degredation. These results were due to climate change and permafrost thaw, both of which can be fatal to aquatic life.
The leaching of wastes from drilling sumps represents a newly identified example of one of the cumulative impacts of recent climate change impacting the sensitive freshwater ecosystems of the Arctic