Developing a fuzzy logic-based risk assessment for groundwater contamination from well integrity failure during hydraulic fracturing

Olivia Milton-Thompson, Akbar A. Javadi, Zoran Kapelan, Aaron G. Cahill, Laurie Welch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)


Recent natural gas development by means of hydraulic fracturing requires a detailed risk analysis to eliminate or mitigate damage to the natural environment. Such geo-energy related subsurface activities involve complex engineering processes and uncertain data, making comprehensive, quantitative risk assessments a challenge to develop. This research seeks to develop a risk framework utilising data for quantitative numerical analysis and expert knowledge for qualitative analysis in the form of fuzzy logic, focusing on hydraulically fractured wells during the well stimulation stage applied to scenarios in the UK and Canada. New fault trees are developed for assessing cement failure in the vertical and horizontal directions, resulting in probabilities of failure of 3.42% and 0.84%, respectively. An overall probability of migration to groundwater during the well injection stage was determined as 0.0006%, compared with a Canadian case study which considered 0.13% of wells failed during any stage of the wells life cycle. It incorporates various data types to represent the complexity of hydraulic fracturing, encouraging a more complete and accurate analysis of risk failures which engineers can directly apply to old and new hydraulic fracturing sites without the necessity for extensive historic and probabilistic data. This framework can be extended to assess risk across all stages of well development, which would lead to a gap in the modelled and actual probabilities narrowing. The framework developed has relevance to other geo-energy related subsurface activities such as CO2 sequestration, geothermal, and waste fluid injection disposal.
Original languageEnglish
Article number145051
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date9 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021


  • Fuzzy logic
  • Gas migration
  • Groundwater contamination
  • Hydraulic fracturing
  • Risk assessment
  • Well integrity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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