NATURAL GAS IN GROUNDWATER: THE STORY OF SOUTH DAKOTA'S FLAMING FOUNTAIN
Depletion of natural gas from the aquifer resulted in the flame going out a few years ago. The State Engineer’s office has come under pressure from veterans’ groups to restore the flame, and has tried numerous approaches, including attempts to increase flow from the well, and running a natural gas line to the memorial. None of these have been effective at keeping the flame alight for more than a few hours. A methane sensor developed at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology to monitor methane in the headspace of groundwater wells near oil and gas production areas was deployed on the Flaming Fountain to assess the levels of methane. Several graduate and undergraduate students were engaged in developing and testing the instrument, and the Flaming Fountain proved to be an excellent field test. Levels of methane were found to be highly variable, and it no longer appears to be a continuously flowing phase. We recommended that the well be plugged and a new fountain built. The sensor will be deployed on a shale gas monitoring site in Canada.