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Award-winning paper on research into impact of gas leakage on groundwater chemistry

KWR researcher Gilian Schout wins NHV Hydrology Award

On 15 September, KWR researcher Gilian Schout received the prestigious Hydrology Award for his research into the impact of gas leakage on groundwater chemistry. The award-winning paper was published in 2018 in the leading scientific journal PNAS, and was part of Schout’s recently completed doctoral research at Utrecht University

The Hydrology Award is granted every three years by the Netherlands Hydrological Society (NHV), and is intended as an incentive prize for young hydrologists in the Netherlands and Belgium. Gilian Schout was handed the award, consisting of a certificate and a sum of money, by Prof. Huub Savenije, jury chair and professor of hydrology at TU Delft. Schout follows in the footsteps of his KWR colleague Ruud Bartholomeus, who won the Hydrology Award in 2010.

Award-winning paper

The award-winning paper, titled “Impact of an historic underground gas well blowout on the current methane chemistry in a shallow groundwater system”, was published in 2018 in the leading scientific journal PNAS. The paper is part of Schout’s recently completed doctoral research at Utrecht University, which he carried out in collaboration with doctoral candidates and co-authors of the paper Jasper Griffioen (UU/TNO), Majid Hassanizadeh (UU) and Niels Hartog (KWR).

New insights

The research demonstrated that the groundwater above the blowout location near Sleen (Drenthe) 50 years after the catastrophe is still contaminated with methane from the deep natural gas reservoir, and that such an event can thus have a long-term impact on the groundwater chemistry. The results offer new insights into both the effects of gas leakage (a persistent problem in oil and gas drilling operations) and how such leakages can be effectively detected.

Importance of the deep subsurface

‘The deep subsurface plays an important role in our energy provision, now and into the future,’ says Schout, referring to the impact of his research. ‘Besides oil and gas extraction, think of technologies like geothermal energy and CO2 storage. Such activities are not without risk for the overlying groundwater that we use to produce drinking water.’ Schout started working as a hydrogeology researcher at KWR at the beginning of this year. ‘I think it’s great that my doctoral research has allowed me to link the groundwater world with the world of oil and gas, and thus contribute to a sustainable water and energy provision. I accept the Hydrology Award with pride, and see it as an incentive to pursue my research work at KWR on the connection between the shallow and deep subsurface.’

Gilian Schout (middle) with Hydrology Award certificate. From left to right: Hubert Savenije (TU Delft, jury chair), Anne van Loon (VU, nominee), Inge de Graaf (WUR, nominee) and Remko Uilenhout (WUR, NHV chairperson).