Rebecca Tyne


The aim of my research is to identify whether hydrocarbons from historical production can be detected in the surrounding groundwater and, if so, to trace the source and mechanisms of release. My research is focused in California, where oil production began in the 1880’s and since then hundreds of thousands of wells, across 500 distinct oil and gas fields, have been in operation. It is therefore important to understand how this production has affected nearby groundwater. Changes in industry practices and in regulation combined with worries over new practices have resulted in the State of California mandating a monitoring program for the effects of well stimulation treatments. My project is therefore associated with a USGS monitoring program (COGG).
So far I have developed a method for the extraction of noble gases from produced waters (oil/water mixtures).  I will use noble gases from both the produced waters (which are taken at the well head, and represent reservoir compositions) and from the surrounding aquifers to identify sources of contamination and methods of transport. I have three working hypotheses for the source of contamination:

  • Ineffective or legacy practices within the hydrocarbon industry resulting in leakages.
  • Water extraction for agriculture resulting in upwelling contamination plumes.
  • Natural contamination that has always been present in the system.

Supervisors: Chris Ballentine, Pete Barry (University of Oxford), Justin Kulongoski (USGS).


I previously graduated with an MSci in Environmental Geoscience from Imperial College London in 2016. For my MSci project, I worked with Mark Sephton and Jon Watson, to look at locating oil biodegradation in the Wessex Basin.

i) Cheng, A., Tyne, R., Kwok, YT., Rees, L., Craig, L., Lapinee, C., D’Arcy, M., Weiss, DJ., Salaün, P., 2016. Investigating Arsenic Contents in Surface and Drinking Water by Voltammetry and the Method of Standard Additions. Journal of Chemical Education, 93(11), pp 1945-1950.