Marcellus Formation

December 18, 2013

Marcellus Shale drilling becomes more efficient

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 15, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

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 10, 2013

New Rule in WV Regarding Fracking Waste

Read here about a new rule in West Virginia regarding fracking waste.

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December 4, 2013

Gas Drilling Slows in PA City

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

October 30, 2013

Environmental group sues company over waste dumped into in Allegheny River

Source: The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 28, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

An industrial treatment plant near Allegheny National Forest is dumping illegal amounts of salty, contaminant-laden wastewater from drillers into the Allegheny River in violation of state and federal laws, an environmental group charged in a federal lawsuit.

The state director of Clean Water Action said the group can’t say whether Waste Treatment Corp.’s discharges into the river in Warren include wastewater from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process of getting gas from the Marcellus shale.

“From our perspective, we just don’t want it in the river,” said Myron Arnowitt, whose group asked a federal judge in the lawsuit filed Monday to order Waste Treatment to stop discharging and fix any damage done to the river.

Waste Treatment did not return a call for comment.

The company has said it does not discharge fracking water, Arnowitt said. Marcellus drillers statewide announced a voluntary effort in 2011 to stop sending fracking water to such plants.

The company has a discharge permit dating to 2003, but Arnowitt said it does not cover the types of pollutants it is discharging. The state Department of Environmental Protection is reviewing an application for a new permit.

“We’re concerned that DEP is delaying action,” he said. “While they’re trying to figure out what this permit should be, (the company) continues to discharge.”

A DEP spokesman said he could not comment.

The DEP in September filed notice in Commonwealth Court that it was suing Waste Treatment but did not include any specific complaints.

A DEP study last year found pollutants reduced water quality downstream of the plant to levels that can’t support aquatic life, leaving the water two- to four-times saltier than sea water, Arnowitt said. Warren is about 150 miles upriver from Pittsburgh.

Clean Water Action is suing under the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act.

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October 9, 2013

Duke researchers publish new paper on gas-drilling waste

Source: The Herald-Sun (Durham, NC), October 6, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Duke University researchers say they’ve documented elevated levels of a radioactive element where a western Pennsylvania waste plant discharged treated water previously used in natural-gas drilling.

Published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the findings came from a team led by Nicholas School of the Environment professors Avner Vengosh and Rob Jackson.

The key finding, of elevated levels of radium in streambed sediments just below the plant’s discharge point, came even though it was clear that the treated water leaving the plant met the industrial discharge limit for radioactivity, the paper said.

The effluent nonetheless has a “significant impact” on the sediments. To wit, “most of the radium appears to be absorbed and retained in them” instead of flowing downstream, the paper said.

And the resulting concentrations are high enough that if the sediments themselves were treated, regulations “would require you to take them a licensed radioactive-waste facility,” Jackson said.

The team also found that the plant’s discharge appeared to contribute to elevated levels of salts in the stream’s water downstream of the facility, despite the diluting effect of the stream’s much larger flow.…

October 7, 2013

Dangerous levels of radioactivity found at fracking waste site in Pennsylvania

Source: Guardian Web, October 3, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Scientists have for the first time shown dangerous levels of radioactivity and salinity at a shale gas waste disposal site that could contaminate drinking water. If the UK follows in the steps of the US “shale gas revolution”, it should impose regulations to stop such radioactive buildup, they said.

The Duke University study, published on Wednesday, examined the water discharged from Josephine Brine Treatment Facility into Blacklick Creek, which feeds into a water source for western Pennsylvania cities, including Pittsburgh. Scientists took samples upstream and downstream from the treatment facility over a two-year period, with the last sample taken in June this year.

Elevated levels of chloride and bromide, combined with strontium, radium, oxygen, and hydrogen isotopic compositions, are present in the Marcellus shale wastewaters, the study found.

Radioactive brine is naturally occurring in shale rock and contaminates wastewater during hydraulic fracturing known as fracking. Sometimes that “flowback” water is re-injected into rock deep underground, a practice that can cause seismic disturbances, but often it is treated before being discharged into watercourses.

Radium levels in samples collected at the facility were 200 times greater than samples taken upstream. Such elevated levels of radioactivity are above regulated levels and would normally be seen at licensed radioactive disposal facilities, according to the scientists at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment in North Carolina.…

September 25, 2013

Pa. well site will be focus of fierce legal battle

Source: The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 22, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

The Marquardt well site is indistinguishable from most Marcellus Shale drilling locations: It encompasses about five acres of graded farmland, covered with gravel, containing two active natural gas wells.

But this well pad was the scene of a crime, according to state Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office, which on Sept. 10 announced charges against a subsidiary of the oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. for a spill that occurred here in 2010.

Three years ago, the site contained about 50 steel storage tanks, parked side by side, including some that held toxic drilling wastewater to be treated and recycled. The state says that more than 50,000 gallons — about 10 tractor-trailer loads — leaked through an open valve, flowed through a ditch, and polluted an unnamed creek.

Exxon Mobil’s subsidiary, XTO Energy Inc., is mounting a fierce legal and public-relations defense, saying the criminal charges are “unprecedented, baseless, and an abuse of prosecutorial discretion.”

XTO portrays the spill as a minor event — closer to 6,300 gallons leaked — for which it has already made amends, and says there was no lasting environmental damage.

“They cleaned it up pretty quickly,” said Robert Marquardt, the cattle farmer whose fields of corn and alfalfa surround the wells.

He has no beef with XTO. But Kane does.

“The severity, the extent of the spill, was significant in this case,” said Joe Peters, a spokesman for the attorney general.…

September 13, 2013

Pennsylvania drillers may soon face tightened environmental regulations

Source: http://www.lexology.com, September 5, 2013
By: Scott J. Bent, Baker & Hostetler LLP

Oil and gas drillers in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale formation may soon find themselves subject to more stringent environmental protection standards under regulations proposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“the Department”). The Department announced on August 27, 2013 that the proposed regulations were approved by the state’s Environmental Quality Board. The proposal now moves to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and the Office of General Counsel, followed by a public comment period.

The proposed regulations address four general issues: 1) protection of public lands and resources; 2) orphan and abandoned well identification; 3) pollution containment practices; and 4) protection of water resources.

Protection of Public Resources

Under the proposed regulations, applicants for well permits must notify the appropriate public resource agency (such as the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources or the Pennsylvania Game Commission) if a well site is within a certain distance of public lands or resources. For example, notice is required if a site is within 200 feet of a national natural landmark or within 1,000 feet of a water well, surface water intake, reservoir, or other water source used by a water purveyor.

The resource agency has an opportunity to provide comments and recommendations to the Department and the well operator. The Department makes the final determination on the permit application, and it may add conditions to the well permit to mitigate potential impact to public resources.…

August 6, 2013

Study: pathways for gas migration into groundwater not created by hydraulic fracturing

Source: http://www.lexology.com, July 30, 2013
By: Wayne J. D’Angelo, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

The image of water flowing from a tap being ignited with a lighter has become heavily associated with hydraulic fracturing in the minds of the public. But a research paper produced by the National Ground Water Association suggests this widespread image may be a mirage. The paper, published in the May/June issue of the journal Groundwater, details the results of a study of 1,701 water quality analyses from drinking water wells in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The study found that the use of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction has not created pathways for rapid gas migration into shallow groundwater. Rather, the concentration of methane in the region’s groundwater is disproportionally high in water wells located in valleys, regardless of their proximity to shale gas wells. The findings suggest that the topography of the region, rather than shale gas development, explains elevated methane levels in Susquehanna County water wells. The paper’s authors extrapolate that the findings have significant implications for the understanding of risks associated with shale gas extraction.

The authors also examined the results of isotropic and molecular analyses of hydrocarbon gases from 15 water wells in Susquehanna County by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the EPA, and concluded that the gases in the water wells are most consistent with those found in the spaces around the casings of local gas wells. These gases originate in relatively shallow shale formations, and do not exhibit features consistent with gas produced from deeper Marcellus shale.

These findings, while significant, are very much consistent with numerous other studies across the nation, none of which have found an instance of methane contamination in water from the fracturing of shale well below the aquifer.

With assistance from Andrew McNamee

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August 6, 2013

Pennsylvania drillers eye shale layers atop Marcellus

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 31, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

The question of fracking the shale layers above and below the Marcellus has transitioned from an “if” to a “when” for many oil and gas operators in Pennsylvania. On that, they agree; how to do it is another story.

In recent discussions with analysts, executives at three of southwestern Pennsylvania’s largest oil and gas firms shared contrasting views about what they believe happens when two wells are fracked on top of each other.

They were talking about their companies’ experiments with the Upper Devonian formation, which is a group of shales that lies only a few hundred feet above the Marcellus.

Downtown-based EQT Corp. has changed its strategy after monitoring four Upper Devonian wells for a few years. Rather than drill Marcellus wells now and come back for the Upper Devonian bounty later, the company decided to drill more of these shallower shale wells at the same time as the Marcellus ones.

Their Upper Devonian wells aren’t the most stellar in terms of gas production, executives said, but it makes sense in the context of an already constructed well pad and paved access road, with all the necessary equipment already on site, to toss another horizontal spoke into the ground.

Philip Conti, EQT’s CFO, told investors that waiting too long after the Marcellus is fracked before tapping the Upper Devonian could deplete the shallower formation or cause interference between the two.…