New Withdrawals, New Impairments as Pennsylvania Develops the Marcellus Shale
2010 Eastern Water Resources Conference, Orlando, FL, May 20-21, 2010
11 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2010
Date Written: May 20, 2010
Each production well in the Marcellus Shale states use 4-7 million gallons of water for hydraulic fracturing. In Pennsylvania, 195 Marcellus wells were drilled in 2008; in 2009, 768 Marcellus wells were drilled. In January of 2010, drilling operators in Pennsylvania used somewhere between 356 million and 623 million gallons of water to fracture 71 Marcellus Shale wells. In Washington County, Pennsylvania alone, 15 Marcellus wells were drilled in January of 2010, using 60-105 million gallons in a month. At the same time that drillers are withdrawing large amounts of water to fracture the shale, water quality standard exceedances for signature pollutants from gas drilling operations have consistently occurred in several Pennsylvania waterways during low-flow conditions.
The water quality and quantity impacts of the development of the Marcellus Shale are exemplified by the relatively quick development of innovative treatment facilities and wastewater recycling plants. While the recycling processing plants have the potential to produce no discharge and send treated and diluted wastewater back to the drilling pads for use as fracturing fluid, plant engineers anticipate the need for up to 3 million gallons per day of water to dilute the chloride content to levels appropriate for fracturing. While the plants may solve some of the issues associated with the discharge of high chloride and heavy metals, the proposals for recycling plants suggest that similar (if not greater) amounts of water will be used in the reuse treatment and dilution process as were being withdrawn for fracing.
This paper will explore the inter-relationship between water use requirements of Marcellus Shale hydraulic fracturing operations and surface water quality.
Keywords: Marcellus Shale, Pennsylvania, shale gas, hydraulic fracturing, antidegradation, water quality and quantity, impairment, withdrawals, water pollution, water treatment
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