Technology to Create New Water Source for Marcellus Operators

Marcellus Boom Significantly Impacts Pa. Water Resources

The boom in Marcellus shale exploration and production activity has had a significant impact not only on the state’s economy, but on its water resources. Water use and management have become issues not only for the Marcellus, but other U.S. shale plays. Water shortages in the United States have put the U.S. oil and gas industry on a collision course with other users because of the large volumes needed for hydraulic fracturing, the Financial Times reported Feb. 5.

With estimated recoverable reserves of 500 trillion cubic feet, the Marcellus shale play is estimated to be North America’s largest natural gas reservoir, said David Yoxtheimer, in a Nov. 3, 2013 article, Water Recycling – a Staple in the Marcellus Shale. Yoxtheimer is a hydrogeologist, extension associated with Penn State University’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research.

Shale gas formations such as the Marcellus are “very promising” as an abundant domestic energy source, but development of shale faces environmental challenges, including proper water resources management.

Four to five million gallons of water are typically used to hydraulically fracture a horizontal well in the Marcellus play. Water used in hydraulic fracturing is withdrawn from sources approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection prior to use. In some cases, approval from river basin commissions such as the Susquehanna River Commission may also be required, Yoxtheimer noted.

Besides abandoned mine discharges, water can be sourced from surface water intakes on streams or rivers, groundwater supply wells, water bought from public water suppliers, treated municipal wastewater, or other sources. An estimated 10 to 15 million gallons of water are being withdrawn daily from the state’s water resources for shale development.

Water is being transported to well sites by tanker trucks or through pipelines, or are storing water at sites in temporary above-ground facilities. Over the past few years, the industry has moved towards reusing more produced fluids in the Marcellus and in other U.S. shale plays.


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