Thursday, January 26, 2012

What is the next step for Natural Gas in PA and other states Opt-Ed by How a gas boom became a glut- By Louis D. D'Amico

Comment - this is not my work -
Source: Opt-Ed by How a gas boom became a glut- By Louis D. D'Amico
Shale gas is shaving bills

Chesapeake to cut natural gas production

Passengers on Pennsylvania's natural-gas roller coaster are advised to check their restraining devices. It's poised to change course again, producing nausea for some and shrieks of joy for others.
A combination of powerful forces - Mother Nature and supply and demand - is going to have at least a short-term impact on natural-gas drilling in the state. Low prices, full storage facilities, reduced use due to a mild winter, and slow-to-rebound industrial demand will likely slow down the industry for at least a year, and more likely longer. The state and the nation are reaching a temporary plateau in the natural-gas boom, with consequences both positive and negative.
What happened? And what's next?
Supply is the leading factor. The shale-gas revolution has outpaced production estimates from just two years ago.
In 2008, Pennsylvania had to import 75 percent of the natural gas it needed each year. The commonwealth was expected to be supplying all its own gas by 2009 and to become an exporter by 2014. But it actually reached that point last year.

At the same time, drilling in other shale formations around the country is also producing immense volumes of gas, adding to the glut.

Demand, meanwhile, remains relatively low. A mild winter gets the short-term blame. Low demand from manufacturing and related gas-intensive industries is having a more sustained impact.

Natural-gas users, of course, are reaping the benefits of prices that have not been this low since 1999. The cost of heating an average home with gas this winter is expected to be about $700, a figure that will likely drop further if the moderate weather continues. This allows people and businesses to save money and spend it elsewhere in the economy.
Though good in that sense, low natural-gas prices are bad for producers, many of whom can't continue to spend money on wells that aren't profitable under current and foreseeable conditions. In the coming months, Pennsylvanians can expect to see fewer Marcellus Shale natural-gas wells drilled, along with a decline in the conventional natural-gas wells that have dotted the state's western counties for decades.
With prices for crude oil around $100 a barrel, conventional producers can be expected to focus on shallow, oil-bearing geologic formations. Horizontal drilling in unconventional formations, meanwhile, will likely move west into Ohio to focus on the Utica Shale formation, which also produces more profitable liquid fuels. Drilling rigs here may be idled or sent to other parts of the country with similarly oil-rich shale formations to wait out the glut, taking with them some of the workers who have migrated here in recent years. The trend could be exacerbated by new fees and regulatory hurdles in Pennsylvania.

These developments have the advantage of allowing the state's educational institutions to train more students and workers for the jobs that will return when natural-gas prices increase. Pipeline and infrastructure construction, which has not kept pace with drilling activity, would also have a chance to catch up.
Given the evidence that natural gas will be available and affordable for many years, more consumers may take the opportunity to convert to the fuel. Conversions of buses, vehicle fleets, and other cars and trucks to compressed natural gas are already picking up considerable momentum. So are permitting and construction of facilities that can use gas to produce the chemical building blocks for auto parts, fertilizers, plastics, and other consumer goods. These plants will take years to build, and they will put thousands of people to work in the process.

As recently as 2007, the price of natural gas was as high as $14 per 1,000 cubic feet, which had terrible repercussions for energy markets and the economy. Prices as low as $2 per 1,000 cubic feet - or, worse, the $1 level some are predicting - are as disruptive, though with different winners and losers.

The development of the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, however, will proceed over a long period, and the volatility of supply, demand, and prices will lessen as time goes on. With that stabilization will come equally stable, long-term economic benefits for Pennsylvania.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

CEWA Technologies’ Revolutionary Solar Dish in First Commercial Application - More cost effective??

BETHLEHEM, PA: CEWA Technologies, Inc., Bethlehem, is installing its revolutionary new solar dish in its first commercial application. The structural base for the prototype was erected on the rooftop of the Flat Iron building in Southside Bethlehem on January 14 as its initial test site. This solar dish represents a technological breakthrough because it provides thermal energy at prices that are less than existing technologies, and that are competitive with fossil fuels without relying on government subsidies.

CEWA designs and manufactures point concentrator solar dishes. By using existing materials in new ways and employing a unique design, CEWA’s toroid solar collector prototype can provide 30kW of energy with far greater efficiency than existing solar collectors.

The solar dish is easy to install, operate, and maintain in a wide variety of applications and terrains, and can be aligned much faster than competing dishes. The product can be used for space or process heating, HVAC, or electricity generation. It will be sold to industrial, institutional, and utility customers.

“CEWA’s solar dish will dramatically accelerate the use of solar power throughout the world,” said J. Paul Eisenhuth, Chief Executive Officer of CEWA Technologies. “Our proprietary technology allows solar energy to be cost-competitive with other energy options without government support.”

CEWA received a $146,000 investment from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Development Program in 2010, another $49,000 Ben Franklin investment through the U.S. Department of Energy in 2011, and is a resident company of Ben Franklin TechVentures®. The company has also received support from the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone and The Stone House Group, Bethlehem. The Stone House Group owns the Flat Iron Building, where the solar dish will be installed, and has provided substantial financial support to the installation.

The KIZ funded CEWA with two $15,000 Technology Transfer Grants, supplied interns, and brokered the deal with the Stone House Group as the first prototype installation. The KIZ also supported the project through testimony before the Bethlehem Historic Preservation Commission and Bethlehem City Council.

“The CEWA project is the first visible step in the development of The Stone House Group's Zero Carbon Neighborhood initiative,” said Larry Eighmy, Principal of The Stone House Group. “We specialize in building stewardship, which includes sustainable design, energy management and renewable energy project development. Future initiatives include a tri-generation system and a biomass co-generator and variable-flow refrigerant HVAC system.”

Ben Franklin clients Dynalene, Inc., Whitehall, and Keystone Automation, Inc., Duryea, are also involved in the project. Dynalene provided a heat-transfer fluid, based on a chemistry derived from renewable materials, which is thermally stable at high temperatures. Keystone Automation, a designer and contract manufacturer of specialized automated equipment, developed and fabricated the mast for the solar dish, which is its supporting structure.

Lehigh University Professor Sudhakar Neti received two grants of $49,500 each that supported research on dish construction and its reflective surface that must perform despite exposure to the elements. These grants were provided under Lehigh's Energy Research Seed and Commercialization Grant programs in collaboration with Lehigh Professor Wojciech Misiolek. The programs were funded by the Commonwealth’s Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority to support application of university talents and technologies in development of Pennsylvania businesses. Neti is a CEWA co-founder, and chairs its board.

“This is an outstanding example of cooperation among companies, economic and community development organizations, higher education, and government to grow local firms that address real market needs,” said Eisenhuth. “These partnerships will allow CEWA to pioneer a game-changing energy technology that will create sustainable jobs right here in Bethlehem.”

B.F. Environmental Inc - supports alternative energy and homegrown energy solutions (training portal)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tracking Methane Gas - Natural Pipeline Household Wellhead and Environmental Leaks and Releases

Gas Safety Inc.
16 Brook Lane
Southborough, Massachusetts 01745
Article Prepared by: Bob Ackley []
Edited by: Brian Oram-

Gas Safety Inc. (GSI), specializes in pipeline distribution system leakage, the effects of leakage on the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens and environment, and the impact of the leakage on the cost of natural gas to the consumer. Gas Safety Inc is committed to the safe transmission and use of natural gas. Natural gas leaks can be an explosion hazard as well as an environmental hazard that can threaten your health and environment and it is a waste of our energy resources. Natural gas leaks emanating from distribution piping systems are causing millions of dollars of damage to lawns, shrubs and trees. Our instruments have the ability to detect as little as 10 parts per billion of natural gas or propane. Gas Safety employees are operator qualified to conduct Department of Transportation compliance leakage surveys and to respond to odor complaints.
GSI has documented thousands of distribution system leaks that are damaging millions of dollars of public shade trees in the greater Boston area. Gas Safety Inc. can detect natural gas leaks that damage and destroy valuable public property. Our team has detected thousands of leaks that have damaged millions of dollars of our urban forest. Our team can test one, ten or every tree in your community and save the costs of pruning and removal of dead and damaged trees caused by leaking natural gas. Cities and towns and urban forestry programs are taking steps to test, monitor, and encourage the necessary repair to leaking gas lines. In some cases, local grassroots organizations are taking a stand to ensure their rights and privileges are protected and compensated, but the first and most important step is awareness.

Low levels of methane inside structures have generally been ignored by most government agencies, health departments, and industry. In most cases this is because field instrumentation was not able to detect minor leaks that waste energy, it costs you money, and could impact your health. A Gas Safety Inc survey can protect your private property from the inherent dangers and elevated energy costs associated with a leaking natural gas system. Whether it is gas leaking from your gas provider or from private piping downstream from the meter, Gas Safety Inc instruments can detect as little as 10 parts per billion of gas in the atmosphere. Gas Safety Inc can also detect any leaking gas outside of a home or building that may be damaging your grass, shrubs or trees. Gas Safety Inc has detected thousands of leaks that have caused millions of dollars of damage to trees, shrubs and lawns.

Picarro G2301 Greenhouse Gas Analyzer  is available for use in detecting methane concentrations to 1 part per billion. The Picarro instruments are considered the “Gold Standard” in greenhouse gas monitoring instruments. Some units have the ability to isotopically fingerprint biogenic and thermogenic methane sources.

The Picarro analyzer has the capability to take readings every second. This is real-time monitoring for methane. The Picarro analyzer can be interface with GPS coordinates- This is spatial analysis. When these two data sources or streams are combined, this system can produce a real-time spatial analysis of methane gas distribution. This can be linked with to Google Earth KML files to provide maps that can be used to make a positive change in the community and identify the primary sources of methane gas releases from pipelines, delivery lines, industrial activities, and the environment.

Newton, Massachusetts main thoroughfares natural gas pipeline gas leakage 1/5/2012:

Google Earth screen shot of Newton, MA natural gas pipeline leakage. The survey was conducted by Bob Ackley of Gas Safety Inc., and Nathan Phillips PhD. of Boston University of roadways in and around Newton, MA..

Picarro technology will allow us to determine if there are any emissions both prior to and post natural gas development, hydrofracking, and gas delivery.  In addition, the laboratory scale units have the capability to aid in determining the generic source of the gas, i.e., biogenic or thermogenic origin.  To learn more, visit our webportal

For more information contact:

Bob Ackley

President Gas Safety Inc

Copyright - retained by Brian Oram, BF. Environmental Consultants Inc. Article not permited for distribution.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

EPA Federal agency cancels water delivery to Pa. Town - Dimock

Sun Jan 8 20:24:01 EST 20121900 The Anchorage Daily News (
"Federal agency cancels water delivery to Pa. town


(01/06/12 15:44:57)

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency abruptly changed its mind Saturday about delivering fresh water to residents of a northeastern Pennsylvania village where residential wells were found to be tainted by a natural gas drilling operation.
Only 24 hours after promising them water, EPA officials informed residents of Dimock that a tanker truck wouldn't be coming after all - an about-face that left them furious, confused and let down - and, once again, scrambling for water for bathing, washing dishes and flushing toilets.
Agency officials would not explain why they reneged on their promise, or say whether water would be delivered at some point.

"We are actively filling information gaps and determining next steps in Dimock. We have made no decision at this time to provide water," EPA spokeswoman Betsaida Alcantara said in an email to The Associated Press.

It's not clear how many wells in the rural community of Dimock Township were affected by the drilling. The state has found that at least 18 residential water wells were polluted. Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., which was banned in 2010 from drilling in a 9-square-mile area around the village, maintains that it is not responsible for the pollution and that the water is safe.
Eleven families who sued Cabot expected water from the EPA to arrive either Friday or Saturday. They have been without a reliable source of water since Cabot won permission from state environmental regulators to halt deliveries more than a month ago.

The homeowners say their wells are tainted with methane gas and toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, a technique in which water, sand and chemicals are blasted deep underground to free natural gas from dense rock deposits.

Dimock resident Craig Sautner said an EPA staffer in Philadelphia told him Saturday the water delivery was canceled. He said the EPA staffer, on-scene coordinator Rich Fetzer, would not explain why.

"You can't be playing with people's lives like this," said Sautner, whose well was polluted in September 2008, shortly after Cabot began drilling in the area. Sautner and the other homeowners had been relying on deliveries of bulk water paid for by anti-drilling groups, but the last delivery was Monday, and some of them ran out.

After the EPA delivery fell through Saturday, the environmental group Water Defense, founded by actor Mark Ruffalo, said it would send a tanker from Washingtonville, N.Y., on Sunday to replenish the residents' supply.

Dimock has become a focal point in the national debate over the so-called fracking method, which has allowed energy companies to tap previously inaccessible reservoirs of natural gas while raising concerns about its possible health and environmental consequences. The industry says the technique is safe.

Gas drilling companies have flocked in recent years to the Marcellus Shale, a massive rock formation underlying New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia that's believed to hold the nation's largest deposit of natural gas. Pennsylvania has been the center of activity, with thousands of wells drilled in the past few years.

The latest twist in the three-year-old Dimock saga left residents with plenty of questions, but no answers. "What happened? Who had the power here? Who had the power to change their minds? Was it the governor? Was it somebody from Washington? Was it Cabot? What happened? We don't know. We're really confused," said Wendy Seymour, an organic garlic farmer.
Seymour said an EPA official in Philadelphia told her Friday that she could expect a delivery. On Saturday, another EPA official called her and "apologized for the confusion" and said EPA was still assessing the situation.

Claire Sandberg, executive director of Water Defense, said the EPA owed them an explanation.
"It's tragic to see the EPA raise these people's hopes and then dash them, to see the EPA suggest they were beginning to accept their responsibility to protect the public, and then back out a few hours later when these people are so desperate," she said."

Again = the above is not my work - but my suggestions are as follows:

1. Private Well Owners should release all data to the public.
2. EPA should release all Dimock Data to the public.  The facts should be put on the table for all to see.

3. There is a lot in the press about the presence of trace elements in water, plasticizers, etc.  Some of this may be baseline - the only way to know is to be able to see the data.

4. Where are the reports to review?  I have reviewed the PADEP file, the data Cabot posted, - where is the private well data and where is EPA's Data?

Support the Citizens Groundwater and Surfacewater Database

Want to have a Voice in PA - participate in the Private Well Owner and Watershed Survey for the Marcellus Shale Region.

By the way- Wendy's Garlic is Great !

Methane Gas Migration and Your Water Well- A Pennsylvania Perspective and Action Plan

Final Draft - Post for final review and comment

This is a free resource that is being provided by Mr. Brian Oram, Professional Geologist and owner of B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc. and the Water-Research Center.  This fact sheet is part of our on-going education program for private well homeowners, i.e.,  as The Homeowner Outreach Program.  B.F. Environmental Consultants, Inc. and Mr. Brian Oram support the Citizens Groundwater/Surfacewater Database, which is a grassroots effort to compile the water quality data for Northeastern Pennsylvania.  To learn more, please contact the Water-Research Center-


Methane gas has been a “hidden” problem in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  The gas is typically associated with wetlands, bogs, landfills, coal-producing formations, natural saline seeps, some glacial deposits, and gas storage areas.  Because of the development of the Marcellus Shale, the presence of methane gas and the potential for methane gas migration is a growing concern.   Methane is a colorless, odorless gas that is lighter than air.   Natural gas is mostly methane (70 – 90 % CH4), carbon dioxide (0 to 8 % CO2), plus other gases.  The other gases may include ethane (C2H6), propane (C3H8), butane (C4H10), and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) as well as small amounts of helium.

Methane gas is highly flammable between a lower explosion limit (LEL) of 5.53 percent by volume in air and an upper explosion limit (UEL) of 15 percent.  The minimum concentration level at which the gas has the potential to explode is called the lower explosive limit (LEL); below the LEL level there is not enough gas to cause an explosion.  Above the UEL, there is inadequate oxygen to fuel combustion, but if the space is vented and the gas concentration drops below the UEL, the gas can explode.  Methane is not considered toxic, but it is an asphyxiant at a concentration of over 50 percent in air (it displaces oxygen).  Therefore, the primary risks for methane would be asphyxiation in a confined or poorly vented area or a potential explosion hazard.   As a safety measure, the natural gas industry adds mercaptans to the produced methane gas that enters the pipeline and your home. The mercaptans produce a very pungent odor so that gas leaks will be noticed, but unprocessed methane gas tends to have NO ODOR.  It is critical to note that some unprocessed methane gas may contain long chain hydrocarbon molecules that can create an odor.

From the available data in the Citizen Groundwater/Surfacewater Database, it would appear that the natural background level of methane in private wells in Northeastern Pennsylvania ranges from not detectable or trace levels to over 28 mg/L.  You may suspect the presence of methane gas in your water if you hear a “gurgling noise”, sputtering at the tap, the water has a lot of gas bubbles, is effervescent or fizzy.  

Note: If the pumping level of water in your well starts to fall below your pump intake, ordinary air may mix with the water and produce similar symptoms. When in doubt, contact a professional to determine the nature of the observed gas.

Water hammer or pressure surge is another potential sign of a methane or entrapped gas-related problem. These conditions do not necessarily mean you have a methane problem but it does suggest that additional water testing and possibly more aggressive venting would be needed.  Methane gas typically out-gases very quickly from water.  Therefore, if it takes over 2 minutes for the gas and water to separate, it is most likely carbon dioxide.   If you have a lot of gas and the methane content of the water is low, it may be a mixture of carbon dioxide or air entrapment within the system.   If there is a strong odor and the level of methane is low, you may want to test for sulfur (hydrogen sulfide; odor of rotten eggs) or propane.  Testing for propane would be advisable if you or your neighbors use propane gas.

Note:  Some articles suggest that you should try to collect the water and allow the gas to outgas in a sealed container and then attempt to light the accumulated gas – we do not recommend this practice. This practice is not safe, especially if you do not know the level of methane gas in the water, your home, or under the wellhead.  This may make a great “YouTube” video or “Facebook” post, but it is safer to purchase a small methane gas or flammable gas detector.

There are two main types of methane found in rock formations and groundwater.  The types are based on a difference in origin, not composition:

1. Thermogenic methane, which is formed from buried organic matter at considerable depths where the rocks are compressed and heated; this includes the methane found in coal, gas from some Devonian sandstones/shales, and gas from the Marcellus and Utica Formations.  Methane is produced by the inorganic breakdown of organic matter (heat and pressure). 

2. Biogenic or bacterial methane which formed closer to the surface by the action of bacteria (methanogens- “bacteria that produce methane and cannot live in an environment with oxygen).  This would include methane generated in landfills, lake sediments, wetlands/swamps, organic-rich glacial deposits, other recently buried organic deposits, and other carbon rich environments that are without oxygen.

Natural gas formed by thermogenic processes contains small amounts of ethane and propane and may contain very small amounts of butane and pentane as well as methane. Some coals, like from the anthracite region, contain thermogenic gas, but some coal bed methane could be either biogenic or thermogenic gas. When bacteria generate “biogenic” gas, they create mainly methane.

The source of the natural gas can to some extent be determined by the relative proportion of methane, ethane and propane within the gas, i.e., gas fingerprinting.  Even very small amounts of ethane and propane may be important in helping to identify the source of the gas, i.e., gas composition analysis. Unfortunately, gas composition analysis is expensive, requires an expert, may require large volumes of sample, and a reference sample.   The primary difficulty with the analysis and interpretation of methane by either composition or isotope ratios is that after the gas is created it can be altered during the migration process.  This alteration affects the relative proportions and isotopic composition of the gases, thus making it more difficult to distinguish and identify a specific source.  As a guide, it may be possible to use a ratio to suggest the source of the gas- “ if the ratio of methane to ethane is 25, the source is thermogenic, but if the ratio is over 2500, then it is biogenic" (Mr. Bob Pirkle, President of Microseeps, Inc.), but between 25 and 2500 this is where isotopic analysis is critical.

Methane Gas Concerns and Concentrations

Just like radon gas, methane gas migrates naturally up through the soil, geological materials, and through the groundwater and into your home or well.  Some gas naturally enters houses through the foundation, which is why some homes can have a radon problem if the gas entering the home happens to have a relatively high concentration of radon.  When your water well is pumped, the drop in the level of the water in the wellbore reduces the pressure within the formation and permits more gas to migrate toward the wellbore.  If the well is not properly vented and there happens to be substantial amounts of methane, the gas could accumulate under the well cap near the electrical connections for your well or the methane could enter with the well water and outgas in your home.   The US Department of the Interior, Office of Surface Mining, suggests that when the level of methane gas in the water is less than 10 mg/L it is safe, but monitoring is required at 10 to 28 mg/L, and immediate action is needed above 28 mg/L.  At a level of 28 mg/L, the water is fully saturated with methane and it is likely that any air space in the well is at or approaching the LEL.  The air and out-gassing methane, not the water, is now flammable.

Based on a review of regulations and guidance from other states, the following are our professional recommendations related to suggested actions for your well depending on the level of methane gas detected in the water:

u < 2 mg/L – Make sure your well is fitted with a passive venting system using a vented sanitary well cap.

u > 2 to 7 mg/L – Monitor quarterly for one year and install a passive venting system using a vented pipe and vented sanitary well cap.

u > 7 mg/L to < 10 mg/L – Corrective Action is Needed! – Seek help from a professional.
Install active venting and monitor quarterly for one year. Consider Isotopic Analysis – “Like fingerprinting the source of the gas.” Remove ignition sources - if the well is in a well pit or basement, corrective action is needed and you should seek guidance from a licensed professional.

u > 10 mg/L to < 20 mg/L –  Corrective Action and Additional Testing are Needed! – Seek help from a professional.

Install active venting system, an in-home methane detection system, and a gas shroud on the pump.  If the well is very deep or deeper than the surrounding wells, it may be advisable to consider cementing the lower portions of the well (which could be another problem if most of the water in the well is entering the well from its lower section).  Monitoring and Testing - isotopic analysis with monitoring is recommended and the gases and gas concentrations should be tested multiple times during a year with at least one test under conditions when the greatest out-gassing is anticipated.  If there is natural gas development in your area, contact the PADEP and the local Natural Gas Company.  Seek help from a licensed professional !

u  > 20 mg/L – Immediate Corrective Action is Needed! – Seek help from a professional.

Install active venting and active point-of-entry treatment system, remove ignition sources, install a gas shroud on the pump, consider raising the pump,        and consider cementing the lower portions of the well.   Monitoring and Testing – there should be real-time monitoring in the home and a treatment system, regular monitoring of the untreated water and treated water from the system, and isotopic analysis.

It would be advisable to test for methane, ethane, and propane by a certified testing laboratory.  With respect to baseline testing, it would be wise to test for all three gases but if you’re on a budget at least test for methane and ethane and seek guidance from a professional. 

Note: Corrective action is recommended if the well is in a well pit or in the basement and the initial methane in water concentration is above 2 mg/L. 

When to Test for Methane?

This is a common question and to be honest all we can say is that the level of methane in well water is controlled by many factors and conditions and it can be highly variable. If you want to test under the conditions most favorable to methane gas migration or leakage, it would be advisable to conduct testing when one or more of the following conditions exist:
a. barometric pressure is low and soils are saturated;
b. when snow cover is just beginning to melt;

c. the ground is frozen or ice covered; or

d. under long-term pumping conditions for the well when the well is experiencing the lowest dynamic water level and greatest drawdown.

The variability in methane gas concentrations may require you to sample the well three to four times per year to establish a realistic baseline and provide some insight into background levels of methane gas.  You can visually monitor the quality of the water, if the amount of dissolved gases increase, i.e., if there are more bubbles and fizz, maybe it is time to check the water.   If you see a foam, you would probably want to test the water for surfactants.

Taking Action – Based on Your Level of Methane

Level 1- Passive Venting: Methane Levels < 2 mg/L
Passive venting could simply include checking the electrical connections at the top of the well and installing a vented sanitary well cap.  Wells should not be vented to a well pit, inside the home, or within any structure, but vented to the outside atmosphere. The well casing should extend at least 3 feet above the local flood stage for your area.  

Level 2 – Monitoring, Source Identification, and Passive Venting: Methane Levels 2 to
< 7 mg/L

At this stage, a passive venting system should be installed.  At this level, the venting system would consist of a vented well cap using a vented piping approach.  The vent piping should have an inside diameter of 0.5 inches , extend 6 to 12 inches below the sanitary well cap, at least 12 inches above the well cap, and the end of the pipe that extends above grade should be turned down and fitted with a corrosion resistant fine screen.  The screen should have a mesh size of  25 mesh or less. The vent piping should use watertight connections that extend above flood level and local ignition sources. A screen is added so insects cannot enter or clog the pipe and the pipe is turned down to prevent precipitation from directly entering the well.   The well casing should extend at least 3 feet above the local flood stage for your area.  

Level 3 – Active Venting, Removing Ignition Sources, and Seasonal Monitoring: Methane Level 7 to < 10 mg/L

Because the level of methane gas in the well water will fluctuate as the water level in the well changes, it would be advisable to conduct seasonal monitoring to better understand the variation in the gas concentration.  In addition, this level of action would also include installing additional monitoring devices, an active venting system on the well, and an evaluation of the well to determine if a modification to the well would reduce the level of methane gas.  The main goals are to attempt to understand the natural variation in methane levels, provide a venting system that will ensure your family and home is safe, and to proactively manage the potential risk. At this concentration, the venting system should vent the gas above local ignition sources, above flood level, and above a human exposure level, i.e., at least 6 feet or more.
At this time, it may be advisable to conduct an isotopic analysis to determine the likely source of the methane gas.  Isotopic analysis can determine if the source of the methane gas is from a landfill gas, sewer gas, biogenic gas, or thermogenic gas.  Isotopic analysis is a specialty test and costs approximately $ 450.00 to $ 500.00 per sample.  The primary reason for testing the gas at this point is not just to document the concentration, but also to obtain some information related to the source of the methane gas. 

Note:  Any time the level of methane is at or greater than 7 mg/L - Contact- PADEP and the Local Natural Gas Company in Your Area – Under Oil and Gas Law- Section 78.89 – “When an operator or owner is notified of or otherwise made aware of a POTENTIAL natural gas migration incident, the operator shall immediately conduct an investigation of the incident”.

Level 4 – Aggressive, Potentially Long-Term Treatment: Methane Levels > 10 mg/L to
< 20 mg/L.

At this level, it is most likely that a treatment system will be needed and it would be necessary to install intrinsically safe equipment, i.e., switches, pumps, fixtures, etc.  Intrinsic safety is a requirement that applies to devices that are being operated in areas with flammable gases or fuels. It means that the device is incapable of igniting those gases. In short, an intrinsically safe piece of equipment won't ignite flammable gases even if the unit is in a flammable environment.   Additional real-time monitoring equipment and a gas shroud should be installed around the pump. 

Before installing the treatment system, it would be advisable to complete a baseline analysis of the source, plus conduct additional water quality and wellbore analysis to evaluate the potential for modifying the well and aid in the design of the water treatment system.  Aeration or degasification is the primary way to eliminate the problem of methane gas in water.  There are a number of methods for venting the methane, which includes a vented tank, an air release valve, and an air separator.  Because elevated levels of methane gas may be associated with other water quality problems and atmospheric venting may introduce or facilitate bacterial growth it may be necessary to first vent the gas and then install secondary treatment systems.  In some cases, this may mean the treatment system may need to include some form of disinfection.  To maintain the removal efficiency of the methane reduction system and because of our cold climate, it may be necessary to put the treatment system in a climate-controlled space.  

Level 5 – Immediate Action – Aggressive Response, Mitigation and Long-Term Treatment: Methane Levels > 20 mg/L.

An immediate response and action is needed.  At this level, it is likely the water has a number of aesthetic and safety issues and concerns and it may be advisable check if the water is also influenced by elevated levels of pH, ORP (oxidation/reduction potential), barium, strontium, chloride, iron, manganese, bromide, total dissolved solids, and other elements associated with saline water.    Your first response should be to contact the PADEP and the local Natural Gas Company so they can conduct an investigation and seek the advice of a licensed professional.

Because a response at this level of methane gas is very site-specific, the following should only be used as a guide.

1.      Seek advice from a licensed professional.

2.      Conduct an assessment of the methane level in the water, space under the well cap, and methane level in the air in your home or other confined spaces.

3.      Mitigate any immediate hazards that could result in an explosion.

4.      If possible, modify the wellhead to properly vent the gas and upgrade electrical connections to reduce the level of methane in the water to less than 7 mg/L.

5.      This modification may include raising the well pump, installing a pump shroud, installing an active venting system, cement sealing a portion of the well, and any other modifications to make sure the well is properly and safely vented.

6.      Conduct biological and chemical analysis to determine the source of the methane gas and general quality of the water.

7.      If necessary, install a long-term treatment system.  This should include some type of aeration and degasing system.  Special precautions and additional testing will be needed if disinfection will be a component of the system. 

If the water is saturated with methane, i.e., > 28 mg/L, it may be advisable to retest the water/air using the IsoBag sampling method recommended by Isotech Laboratories, Inc. and conducting an isotropic analysis of the gas/water and seek the assistance of a professional.

Well/ System Modifications

The Gas Shroud - In some cases, well contractors have reduced or eliminated methane or other gas problems in the well by installing a gas “shroud” on a submersible pump. This involves placing a pipe or tube, often a thin-walled plastic pipe, from the top of the submersible pump motor, a distance of 10 or more feet above the pump. This method only works with 6-inch or larger diameter wells with standard well pumps, and wells that pump relatively small quantities of water at one time.  Because the gas shroud may interfere with cooling the motor, this modification to your system should be done under the supervision of a licensed professional.

Cementing – If the source of the methane gas is from a formation near the base of the well, it may be advisable to consider abandoning a portion of the well.  To make this decision, it would be advisable to have a copy of the well drillers log, so you have some idea of the type of rock units and location of water bearing zones; you don’t want to seal off the source of most of your well water.  For this option, it may be necessary to camera survey the well and use other tools to evaluate the change in water quality with depth in the well.

Raise the Pump – If the well is deep and the pump is set near the base of the well, it may be advisable to raise the level of the pump.  Do not raise the pump intake above its pumping level because you will then start to pump air along with the water (air bubbles in the water). 

Install a Dole Flow Control Valve- This modification has been successful in preventing gas locking in submersible pumps.  This modification would include the installation of a number of dole flow control valves to divert 1/3 of the pumped water back to the well. The bypass should be located at a point where the water will cascade back to the well.

Maintenance and Monitoring

After you have taken the necessary corrective action, it will be necessary to maintain the equipment and monitor your drinking water quality.  If you hire a water treatment specialist, you may want to consider a licensed or approved contractor who is certified by the Water Quality Association (WQA) and someone that is using an NSF Approved Process or components.  For water quality monitoring, there is some self-monitoring equipment for this task.  You should also conduct an annual water analysis and annual assessment of your system.

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact the Water-Research Center at, , or 570-335-1947. 

Related Tags: methane, ethane, propane, aeration, ventilation, disinfection, radon, baseline testing, water treatment, well water, biogenic gas, water treatment,  thermogenic gas, methane gas migration, methane in drinking water private wells

Special Recognition

We want to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Brian Redmond, Professional Geologist at Wilkes University; Mr. Burt Waite, Professional Geologist at Moody and Associates, Inc., Mr. Bob Pirkle, President of Microseeps, Inc.; Mr. Tom Reilly, Jr. , Reilly Associates for providing a technical review of this factsheet.

Our company accepts no liability for the content of this document, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.  This document is being provided as an educational and informational tool, but before you take action you should seek advice from a professional.

© 2011 by B.F. Environmental Consultants Inc.
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