Recycling of waste water to be norm for Marcellus Shale gas wells

Recycling the wastewater or flowback from gas wells is a step in the right direction. However, you’ll notice that the article mentions that this wastewater is only 15% to 30% of the total amount of water used to fracture a well. What happens to the other 70% or so? Does it stay under the ground, deep in the shale and we hope it is never to be seen again? Does is slowly creep back into our ground water? Do any of the toxins used in the fracking fluid migrate back up through the ground with gases like methane and become problems for landowners later on?

Another concern. What are they doing with the wastewater right now? The regulations that DEP is putting in place won’t go into effect until 2011, but there is a lot of wastewater sitting around Tioga County, as well as other places, and there doesn’t seem to be a good plan for disposing of it. Hence issues like the one with Dunn’s Tank Service in Towanda, PA. And as the fellow in the article mentions Dunkard Creek, you just have to wonder what the streams will be like around here in another 30 years. We are still dealing with coal mining run off and contaminates from deep injection wells from the last 40 years.

By Rick Stouffer, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Major companies drilling for natural gas in Western Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale rock formation are or soon will be recycling all the waste water recovered from their operations, executives said Monday.

Jeff Ventura, president of Range Resources Corp., emphasized the importance of recycling and reusing water recovered from its natural gas drilling operations in Washington County.

“We are recycling 100 percent of the flowback water, which is between 15 percent and 30 percent of the water used during Marcellus Shale well drilling,” said Ventura. A typical well drilled in the Marcellus Shale formation uses new horizontal drilling technology that uses millions of gallons of water to fracture gas-containing shale thousands of feet underground and may return 600,000 gallons of water to be recycled.

Ventura, a native of Penn Hills, spoke yesterday at Hart Energy Publishing’s “Developing Unconventional Gas East Convention” in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

Recycling efforts are expected by proponents to play a huge role in achieving the state Department of Environmental Protection’s proposed 2011 water quality discharge standards.

Earlier this year, DEP Secretary John Hanger announced a proposal that all industrial water discharges contain less than 500 parts per million of total dissolved solids. The proposal would impact several industries, including natural gas development.

Water recycling is important because demand for treating wastewater from oil and gas production in the state is expected to reach about 9 million gallons a day this year, according to a DEP report. It is projected to increase to 16 million gallons next year and 19 million gallons a day in 2011, when new standards limiting such pollution would take effect.

Another major drilling company, Rex Energy Corp. of State College, is recycling all Marcellus Shale drilling water the company recovers.

“We believe that water-related issues in the Marcellus have been somewhat overblown, but we are recycling 100 percent of our recoverable water,” said Rex CEO Benjamin W. Huburt.

Not everyone is convinced that recycling recoverable water is the answer to potential water pollution problems within the Marcellus Shale formation, which covers an area including most of Pennsylvania and portions of New York, Ohio and West Virginia, more than 54,000 square miles.

“Two words, Dunkard Creek,” said Tom Hoffman, Western Pennsylvania director for Clean Water Pittsburgh, referring to a huge kill of fish, mussels and other aquatic life along a 30-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek in Greene County on the Pennsylvania-West Virginia border. Wastewater from drilling operations have been blamed for the incident.

A yellow algae usually found in very hot climates such as in the Southwest is believed to be the reason for the kill, although the direct source for the algae formation has yet to be determined, officials have said.

CNX Gas Corp. has agreed to suspend injections of wastewater from its coalbed methane gas operations at Consol Energy Corp.’s Blacksville No. 1 mine in Greene County.

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