Saturday, May 2, 2009

Marcellus Shale and the Potential Solutions for Northeastern Pennsylvania

The Marcellus Shale, also known as the Marcellus Formation, is a Middle Devonian-age black, carbonaceous, i.e., organic rich, shale, that has a low density and underlies large portions of New York , West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania and the Marcellus Shale or similar formations may underlie sections of Kentucky , Maryland, and Virginia.

Natural gas occurs within the Marcellus Shale in three ways:
1) within the pore spaces of the shale;
2) within vertical fractures (joints) that break through the shale; and,
3) adsorbed on mineral grains and organic material. Most of the recoverable gas is contained in the pore spaces. However, the gas has difficulty escaping through the pore spaces because they are very tiny and poorly connected.

In 2002 the United States Geological Survey calculated that the Marcellus Shale contained an estimated undiscovered resource of about 1.9 trillion cubic feet of gas. Because of the large surface acreage and depth of the formation, i.e., over 1 mile below the surface, it was initially not anticipated to be a large producing formation. Recently, geologists have estimate that the entire Marcellus Shale formation contains between 168 trillion to 516 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

The Marcellus Shale has been characterized as either the savior or the destroyer of Northeastern Pennsylvania. I am not here to pick sides, but my opinion is that the natural gas companies should work with local governments, citizen groups, local Universities and Colleges, and other interested Organizations to review the real concerns and get out the information about the drilling process and fracturing process. In addition, this group should work together to develop intergrated solutions that address the needs of the natural gas companies, support the royality owners rights, and aids the local communities. With this in mind, I would suggest the following alternatives:

a. Aid local communities in improving and implementing construction standards for private wells and help citizens replace older substandard wells with wells that meet the new standard;

b. Consider solving are stormwater management problems by installing the necessary stormwater infrastructure for the community and then using these storage basins as wet detention basins to obtain some or all of the water needed for fracturing wells;

c. Consider siting one or more frac water treatment plants in the area or vicinity of some of the mine drainage outfalls;

d. Use the need to treat mine drainage as an opportunity to facilitate the development of a temporary source for hydrofracturing water and at same time creating a long-term system of acid mine drainage treatment;

e. where possible, intergrate the use of solar, hydro, and wind technologies to aid in off-siting the installation costs for the AMD and stormwater management; and

f. Evaluate the potential for the use of frac water (blended with treated mine water) as a source for irrigation water to help reclaim abandon mine land.

B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc. provides environmental consulting, expert witness, water quality sampling, and education outreach services to landowners and other organizations. The primary focus of our outreach efforts is to aid in evaluating and documenting baseline environmental conditions, evaluate potential for environmental impact, educate citizens on the natural gas development, and assist municipalities in planning related activities. In addition, the company works with local Universities to conduct research related to the Marcellus Shale.

Information on Stormwater Best Management Practices

Post prepared by Mr. Brian Oram, BF. Environmental Consultants Inc.

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