Pennsylvania

August 9, 2013

Groups Score Victory in Fracking Wastewater Fight

Source: http://www.enewspf.com, August 7, 2013

If not for the effort of Clean Water Action and Earthjustice, a wastewater treatment plant in southwestern Pennsylvania might have spent each day of the past three years dumping up to 500,000 gallons of untreated natural gas drilling wastewater into the Monongahela River.

Instead, the plant has not discharged a drop of waste into the Monongahela River, a drinking water source for 350,000 people. And under a new permit issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the plant will not be allowed to discharge anything, unless it proves it can comply with the law and treat all of the contaminants in fracking wastewater.

The DEP had initially tried to fast-track the planned wastewater plant in Masontown, PA, quietly allowing Shallenberger Construction Inc. to dump inadequately treated fracking wastewater directly into the Monongahela River until the company built all of the necessary treatment facilities at the plant.

“When fracking began in western Pennsylvania, the gas industry treated our rivers as a convenient place to dispose of their waste,” stated Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action. “We knew we had to act and we are glad to see that this agreement upholds the protection for our drinking water that every Pennsylvanian expects and deserves.”

In 2008, pollution levels spiked so high in a 70-mile stretch of the Monongahela River that the entire city of Pittsburgh was urged to drink bottled water. The DEP acknowledged that the problem was due in large part to untreated fracking wastewater being discharged from sewage treatment plants. The Shallenberger plant would have added to the contamination

August 7, 2013

Gas leaks from shale wells rare

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, August 5, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Minutes after Debby Kline flicked a lighter near a bathroom sink in her Portage County house in northeastern Ohio, she called the fire department.

A sink-to-ceiling flare erupted when she tried to light a candle on Dec. 21, she told a TV news show. State oil and gas regulators are still investigating what caused natural gas to bubble out of the faucet.

Kline’s Nelson Township house is within a half-mile of two Utica shale wells that state records show were drilled and fracked in October and November.

Videos of burning water in Ohio and Pennsylvania households have helped bring attention to shale drilling and fracking, but such incidents are rare. Most complaints associated with oil and gas drilling are about drinking-water wells that run dry or produce water that’s discolored, smelly or clogged with sediment.

But in some cases, natural gas from poorly cased and cemented wells can seep into drinking-water wells, making faucets spit fizzy water that some homeowners can ignite.

“We encourage people not to do that, because there is an explosive risk,” said Kevin Sunday, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials said they could not discuss Kline’s case while it is being investigated. Kline also declined to comment.

Oil- and gas-industry advocates say shallow pockets of natural gas can leak into groundwater. They say drilling gets blamed for something that has been going on, unnoticed, for years.…

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.…

July 30, 2013

Issues With Fracking Could Be Eased If Industry Was More Honest, Some Say

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com, July 28, 2013
By: Kevin Begos

The boom in oil and gas fracking has led to jobs, billions in royalties and profits, and even some environmental gains.

But some experts say arrogance, a lack of transparency and poor communication on the part of the drilling industry have helped fuel public anger over the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

“It’s a big issue for the industry. I have called for greater transparency. That is the only way to have an honest conversation with the public,” said John Hofmeister, a former Shell Oil Co. president and author of “Why We Hate Oil Companies.”

As an example, Hofmeister said, some industry leaders have suggested that the fracking boom has never caused water pollution. But while the vast majority of wells don’t cause problems, “everybody knows that some wells go bad,” Hofmeister said.

Over the last five years, advances in technology have led to a surge of drilling in states such as Pennsylvania, Colorado, Arkansas and North Dakota. Previously inaccessible deposits of shale oil and gas have been unlocked by fracking, a process in which large amounts of water and sand along with chemicals are injected deep underground to break apart the rock.

One of the biggest promoters of the Marcellus Shale drilling boom in Pennsylvania says that while fracking opponents have exaggerated some risks, the industry hasn’t always handled key issues well, either.…

July 25, 2013

XTO settles federal water pollution charges in Pennsylvania

Source: Oil & Gas Journal, July 19, 2013
By: Nick Snow

ExxonMobil Corp. subsidiary XTO Energy Inc. agreed to pay a $100,000 fine and to spend $20 million to improve wastewater management practices in Pennsylvania and West Virginia natural gas operations.

The agreement came in a settlement of federal water pollution charges, the US Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency jointly announced.

A consent decree, filed in federal court for Pennsylvania’s Middle District, is subject to a 30-day comment period and court approval.

The charges stemmed from a discharge discovered by a Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection (PADEP) inspector’s visit to XTO’s Penn Township plant, where he observed wastewater spilling from an open valve from a series of interconnected tanks.

At the time, XTO stored wastewater from oil and gas activities throughout Pennsylvania at its Penn Township facility, DOJ and EPA said.

Pollutants were found in a Susquehanna River basin tributary. EPA, in consultation with PADEP, determined wastewater stored in the Penn Township facility’s tanks contained the same variety of pollutants, including chlorides, barium, strontium, and total dissolved solids, that were found in those surface waters.…

July 25, 2013

Fracking Study Shows Water Not Contaminated by Chemicals

Read here about a study that showed that chemicals from natural gas drilling did not contaminate drinking water aquifers in Pennsylvania.…

July 2, 2013

OH Fracking Waste Disposal Increasing

Read here about the increase of fracking waste in Ohio resulting from the shale gas and oil drilling process.…

June 27, 2013

Sealing Cited In Gas Leaks, Not Fracking

Source: Dow Jones News Service, June 26, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

(FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL 6/26/13)

Poorly sealed natural-gas wells — not hydraulic fracturing of shale-rock formations — are likely to blame for dissolved gas found in private water wells in Pennsylvania, according to a new study by Duke University.

Duke scientists found that 82% of the 141 water wells they tested in a part of Pennsylvania above the rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale had elevated levels of methane, the main component of natural gas.

Water wells nearer to natural-gas-industry drilling sites had the highest levels according to the study, published online this month by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

However, the study found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the process of using water and chemicals to crack shale formations deep underground and unlock trapped oil and gas, was causing fluids to migrate upward into drinking aquifers closer to the surface.

Instead, it concluded that wells being drilled were most likely not adequately sealed, allowing gas to flow upward and sometimes enter aquifers used by homes. The combination of steel pipes, called casing, and cement sheaths used in well construction don’t always contain gas as intended, industry officials and observers contend.

“Poor casing and cementing problems are the simplest explanation of what we found,” said Rob Jackson, a professor of environmental sciences at Duke and lead author of the study, which was funded by the university.

Environmentalists have criticized fracking as an industrial threat to rural communities and their drinking water.

Steve Everley, a spokesman for Energy in Depth, a group funded by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said the Duke study “is not a smoking gun to say that gas drilling is a problem.” He noted how other recent research has found high levels of methane in water wells, even when there hasn’t been nearby fracking.

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June 26, 2013

Gas drilling taints groundwater

Source: http://www.nature.com, June 25, 2013
By: Jeff Tollefson

Chemical analysis links methane in drinking wells to shale-gas extraction.

As shale-gas operations expand across the United States, industry officials and environmentalists are at loggerheads over whether or not shale-gas extraction can contaminate groundwater. Now researchers have traced low levels of methane and other contaminants to a source of shale gas: the sprawling Marcellus Formation, which lies beneath much of New York state, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio (see ‘On tap’) .

The study, led by researchers at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, expands on an earlier analysis of drinking water in northeastern Pennsylvania, where energy companies have used hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to crack the Marcellus Formation and release gas. In that work, the researchers found that contamination rates increased with proximity to wells (S. G. Osborn et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 108, 8172–8176; 2011). Their latest analysis, published on 24 June, goes a step further, by tying the chemical fingerprint of the ground­water contaminants to the gas being siphoned out of the ground some 2,000–3,000 metres below (R. B. Jackson et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA http://doi.org/m3j; 2013).

“The problems we’ve seen are probably more common than people realize,” says Rob Jackson, director of Duke’s Center on Global Change and lead author of the paper. Jackson stresses that the contamination is probably due to poor well construction, rather than hydraulic fracturing itself. But he says that the results are another “wake-up call” for the industry to improve its drilling operations.…