Marcellus Shale

October 22, 2015

Contaminants stay under wraps

Source: Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA), October 20, 2015
Posted on:

When it comes to lab test results, you can’t find something you’re not looking for. The state Department of Environmental Protection uses a lab code system specifically designed to test water around oil and gas drilling sites that ensures certain contaminants that might be in residents’ drinking water will never be reported.

Because of the way the testing system is set up, contaminants such as arsenic, lead and sodium never appear in some lab reports, despite being found in water tested near Marcellus Shale sites across Pennsylvania.

Using these so-called “suite codes” is akin to Major League Baseball ordering drug tests, leaving steroids out of the results, and then saying there is no evidence of steroid use in baseball.

DEP lab director Taru Upadhyay in a 2012 court deposition said her lab tested for a full range of metals associated with the oil and gas industry, but did not report all of the results – even though providing the full results wouldn’t cost the DEP any extra time or money.

In some cases, 24 metals were detected, but only eight were reported because the department’s oil and gas division had not requested them, she said.

Pennsylvania residents never knew that their water contained copper, nickel, titanium and zinc, which the federal Environmental Protection Agency says are associated with the oil and gas drilling activities and might cause health problems.…

October 13, 2015

Fracking Study Ties Water Contamination to Surface Spills

Source:, October 13, 2015
By: Lisa Song

Research in Pennsylvania shows increased chemicals, but they are not coming from deep underground, making them easier to target.

Residential water wells near Marcellus shale fracking in northeast Pennsylvania were more likely to contain higher levels of diesel-like chemicals, especially if the gas well had a history of environmental health and safety violations, according to a peer-reviewed paper published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But the study found the contamination came from surface spills of hydraulic fracturing fluid, not fracking compounds that were injected deep underground. It also found the contamination levels likely were not a threat to human health.

Brian Drollette, a chemical and environmental engineering graduate student at Yale University and the paper’s first author, called the results encouraging for local residents, because they showed fracking fluids were not moving upward from the Marcellus shale to shallower groundwater aquifers—at least not in the short term. The study authors said this could help improve public health, because residential wells near known surface spills could be monitored and targeted for treatment.

The researchers sampled 64 private water wells and ran a series of highly sophisticated tests to identify contaminants and pinpoint where the chemicals came from. The samples were taken three to five years after the gas wells had been drilled.

“All in all, it’s an excellent piece of science,” said Zacariah Hildenbrand, a scientist who heads an environmental consulting group who wasn’t part of this study. The researchers broke “new ground in terms of characterizing where these constituents are coming from and that has a tremendous amount of value,” he said.…

May 5, 2015

Fracking Chemicals Detected in Pennsylvania Drinking Water

Source: New York Times Online, May 4, 2015
Posted on:

An analysis of drinking water sampled from three homes in Bradford County, Pa., revealed traces of a compound commonly found in Marcellus Shale drilling fluids, according to a study published on Monday.

The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, addresses a longstanding question about potential risks to underground drinking water from the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The authors suggested a chain of events by which the drilling chemical ended up in a homeowner’s water supply.

“This is the first case published with a complete story showing organic compounds attributed to shale gas development found in a homeowner’s well,” said Susan Brantley, one of the study’s authors and a geoscientist from Pennsylvania State University.

The industry has long maintained that because fracking occurs thousands of feet below drinking-water aquifers, the drilling chemicals that are injected to break up rocks and release the gas trapped there pose no risk. In this study, the researchers note that the contamination may have stemmed from a lack of integrity in the drill wells and not from the actual fracking process far below. The industry criticized the new study, saying that it provided no proof that the chemical came from a nearby well.…

November 20, 2014

In Compromise Plan, Limited Fracking Is Approved for National Forest in Virginia

Source: The New York Times, November 19, 2014
Posted on:

Drilling for oil and natural gas will be mostly off-limits in the largest national forest in the East, whose streams bring drinking water to Washington and Richmond, Va., the federal government said Tuesday.

But in a reversal of an earlier proposal to ban hydraulic fracturing throughout the forest, the controversial technique can go forward on privately controlled land in the George Washington National Forest, which rises in the mountains west of Charlottesville, Va.

The decision was a compromise that allowed some fracking while closing 90 percent of the forest to fracking and conventional drilling, which the earlier proposal would have permitted. In an unusual outcome, groups on all sides — industry, environmentalists and the governor of Virginia — claimed victory in the compromise management plan, years in the making.

Unlike in national parks or wilderness areas, industrial development — including mining, forestry and ski resorts — is permitted in national forests.

The final plan reversed a 2011 draft that would have allowed drilling in much of the 1.1-million-acre forest. It drew more than 50,000 public comments, most opposed to gas development anywhere in the forest, but some from industry saying fracking could be done safely, according to Forest Service officials.…

October 28, 2014

Marcellus expert says more scrutiny needed of fracking near Marshall chemical plant

Source: The Charleston Gazette (WV), October 26, 2014
Posted on:

One of the nation’s best-known experts on the Marcellus Shale concluded that more investigation is needed before a Houston firm is allowed to move forward with natural gas wells near the site of a “near-catastrophic” fracking incident at a Marshall County chemical plant.

Penn State geologist Terry Engelder, who did groundbreaking work about the gas reserves available in the Marcellus formation, testified in a Pennsylvania case in which Axiall Corp. was trying to delay and force a more detailed review of its plans for hydraulic fracturing wells at Axiall’s manufacturing plant in Natrium.

“There are certainly things that can be done to gather more information that would help in understanding,” Engelder testified during a June hearing in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. “One would hope that information would be gathered.”

Engelder and another Axiall expert, petroleum engineer Brun Hilbert, testified concerns that Gastar’s wells could lead to a repeat of an incident last year that Axiall blames on high-pressure fracking fluids being used by another company, Triad Hunter, to release natural gas from the Marcellus Shale at a well site across the Ohio River.

In court documents, Axiall says that increased underground pressure from the fracking at Triad Hunter traveled under the river and somehow made contact with brine wells Axiall uses to obtain saltwater, one of the key materials used in its manufacturing process. Axiall says those pressures led to a blowout in which one of its brine wells at its plant “began spewing flammable natural gas.”…

October 8, 2014

Pennsylvania seeks record fine for EQT fracking fluid leak

Source: Reuters, October 7, 2014
Posted on:

Pennsylvania environmental regulators on Tuesday sought a record $4.5 million penalty from EQT Corp, a natural gas producer, for damage caused by the release of fracking fluids from a gas drilling site in the Marcellus region.

The production of shale gas using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technology has created thousands of jobs and is one of the major contributors to economic growth in Pennsylvania.

But over the past year or so, the state has levied big fines and even pursued criminal charges against some drillers over water and soil pollution from leaking fracking fluids.

The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) filed the complaint with the Environmental Hearing Board requesting the $4.5 million civil penalty for what the state called a “major pollution incident” in 2012 in Tioga County.

“This action was necessary because the company has not been cooperative during our investigation. The department does not tolerate this unacceptable attitude toward compliance and proper protection of Pennsylvania’s environment,” Acting DEP Secretary Dana Aunkst said in a statement.

EQT meanwhile said it filed a complaint against the DEP on Sept. 19 after unsuccessful attempts to resolve the company’s liability for the 2012 accidental discharge from a well pad impoundment.…

September 30, 2014

Pennyslvania DEP admits drilling probe error

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, September 29, 2014
Posted on:

The state Department of Environmental Protection might have used incomplete and inaccurate test information to decide whether chemicals leaking from a Marcellus Shale wastewater impoundment and a drill cuttings pit contaminated a water well and springs in Washington County.

The disclosures came last week during sworn testimony by Vincent Yantko, a DEP water quality specialist and supervisor of the department’s investigation at Range Resources’ Yeager farm drill site in rural Amwell Township, as part of a case before the state Environmental Hearing Board in Pittsburgh.

Mr. Yantko was the first defense witness the DEP called in the case brought by Loren Kiskadden, who is appealing the department’s determination that his private drinking-water well wasn’t contaminated by pollutants leaking from Range Resources’ 13.5 million-gallon wastewater impoundment and mud and cuttings pit in 2010 and 2011.

The case before Thomas Renwand, chief judge of the hearing board, is the first in the state to challenge a DEP water supply determination denying contamination. It started last week and will resume Tuesday.

The DEP sent a determination letter to Mr. Kiskadden on Sept. 9, 2011, saying Range’s gas operations on a ridge above rolling farm fields did not contaminate his well water.…

December 30, 2013

2013 Marcellus Shale Highlights

Read here for highlights of Marcellus Shale news from 2013.…

December 18, 2013

Marcellus Shale drilling becomes more efficient

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 15, 2013
Posted on:

When David Dewberry landed in Pennsylvania in 2010, the veteran of the migratory worldwide oil-and-gas workforce said he required more than a month to drill a typical Marcellus Shale natural gas well.

On Dec. 4, a crew under Dewberry’s direction dug into the mountaintop of a state forest near here with a diamond-studded drill bit. Dewberry reckons it will require only 16 days to finish drilling the well’s full length, more than 21/2 miles.

“Since I came up here three years ago, it’s 200 percent better,” said Dewberry, who manages this Lycoming County site in Loyalsock State Forest for Seneca Resources Corp.

The well not only will require half the time to drill, the bore will extend farther horizontally than older wells. And, if it performs like other wells in the area, it will produce a staggering amount of gas.

When it’s done, the towering rig will crawl 20 feet and begin drilling another well. Seneca plans to complete nine wells in an assembly-line fashion on this site, which is the size of five football fields.

“We’ve become so much more efficient,” Dewberry said.

Marcellus Shale exploration companies are drilling bigger wells in less time at less cost, and they are producing more natural gas than ever in Pennsylvania.…

December 4, 2013

Gas Drilling Slows in PA City

Read here about a Pennsylvania city where the pace of gas drilling is slowing.…