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Wastewater Management and Marcellus Shale Gas Development: Trends, Drivers, and Planning Implications

34 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2012 Last revised: 25 Mar 2013

Brian G. Rahm

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute

Josephine Bates

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute

Lara R. Bertoia

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute

Amy E. Galford

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute

David Yoxtheimer

Pennsylvania State University - Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research

Susan Riha

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute

Date Written: November 16, 2012

Abstract

Extraction of natural gas from tight shale formations, which occur globally, has been made possible by recent technological advances, including hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling. Shale gas development is being lauded as a potential energy and geopolitical “game-changer.” However, widespread concern exists with respect to possible environmental consequences of this development, particularly impacts on water resources. In the United States, where most shale gas extraction has occurred thus far, the Marcellus Shale is now the largest natural gas producing play. To date, over 6,000,000 m3 of wastewater has been generated in the process of extracting natural gas from this shale in the state on Pennsylvania (PA) alone. Here we examine wastewater management practices and trends for this shale play, as well as the tracking and transport of shale gas liquid waste streams in PA. Between 2008 and 2011, state regulations and policies, along with low natural gas prices, have led to increased wastewater reuse, decreased POTW use, and more complete data tracking, while the average distance traveled by wastewater has decreased by over 30%. Regional differences in wastewater management are influenced by industrial treatment capacity, as well as proximity to injection disposal capacity. Using lessons from the Marcellus Shale, we suggest that nations, states, and regulatory agencies facing new unconventional shale development implement wastewater reporting and tracking systems, assess local and regional wastewater treatment infrastructure in terms of capacity and capability, promote well-regulated on-site treatment technologies, and review and update wastewater management regulations and policies.

Keywords: Marcellus, hydraulic fracturing, wastewater, shale gas, energy-water nexus

Suggested Citation

Rahm, Brian G. and Bates, Josephine and Bertoia, Lara R. and Galford, Amy E. and Yoxtheimer, David and Riha, Susan, Wastewater Management and Marcellus Shale Gas Development: Trends, Drivers, and Planning Implications (November 16, 2012). Journal of Environmental Management, Vol. 120, 2013, pages 105-113. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2176530 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2176530

Brian G. Rahm (Contact Author)

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute ( email )

Cornell University
1123 Bradfield Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

HOME PAGE: http://wri.eas.cornell.edu/

Josephine Bates

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute ( email )

1023 Bradfield Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-1901
United States

Lara R. Bertoia

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute ( email )

1023 Bradfield Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-1901
United States

Amy E. Galford

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute ( email )

1023 Bradfield Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-1901
United States

David Yoxtheimer

Pennsylvania State University - Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research ( email )

320 Earth-Engineering Sciences (EES) Building
University Park, PA 16802
United States

Susan Riha

Cornell University - New York State Water Resources Institute ( email )

1023 Bradfield Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-1901
United States

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