Posts Tagged ‘gas and oil wells’

Gas drilling could aid clean water

Industry may pay to upgrade plants that handle waste water from process.

By Rory
Staff Writer

The state is contending with a multibillion-dollar water-treatment problem, and the growing gas-drilling industry might be part of the solution.

A roughly $7.2 billion deficit exists for repairing or upgrading waste-water treatment facilities in the state, according to a task force created by Gov. Ed Rendell to solve water-infrastructure issues. Gas companies might help defray that cost as more wells are drilled because the companies will need treatment facilities for waste water.

The process to drill gas and oil wells, called hydraulic fracturing or simply “fracing,” involves shooting sand and water down a well to fracture the rock containing the oil or gas.

The contaminated water is separated out and can be stored and reused, but must eventually be treated. The state Department of Environmental Protection categorizes it as industrial waste, agency spokesman Mark Carmon said.

In western Pennsylvania, where many shallow wells exist, privately operated treatment facilities handle such waste, but none has so far in the northeast area, said Stephen Rhoads, president of the Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Association.

Exploring the Marcellus Shale, which runs from upstate New York into Virginia, including the northern edge of Luzerne County, generally requires far more water than shallow wells because the wells can be 8,000 feet deep

Companies working in this region have reused the water in multiple wells and then shipped it to the facilities out west, Rhoads said, but “obviously, moving it across the state with the fuel prices the way they are, is not economically” viable. The water can also be injected deep into the ground, but no one has sought such a permit in this region, Carmon said.

That leaves sending the water to public facilities, but since many of them are already near or at capacity, the industry is considering paying to upgrade plants. About 30 of the largest regional treatment facilities have been notified by DEP that they might be approached with the idea and that they’d first need to modify their liquid discharge permits and receive approval from the agency, Carmon said.

The idea hasn’t escaped the gas companies.

“We’ve talked about that in various areas throughout the state,” said Rodney Waller, of Range Resources Corp. “We’re investigating that, but … there’s nothing on the horizon.”

Upcoming events

• 10:30 a.m. today the state Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Susquehanna and Delaware river basin commissions, and county conservation districts are meeting in Harrisburg with industry members to discuss environmental regulations.

• 7 p.m. June 23 the Penn State Cooperative Extension is holding a gas-lease workshop for landowners at the Lake-Lehman High School.

Rory Sweeney, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 970-7418.

Copyright: Times Leader

Pa. high court mulls gas-wells regulation

DAN NEPHIN Associated Press Writer

PITTSBURGH — A lawyer for a suburban Pittsburgh municipality trying to keep gas wells out of a residential neighborhood told the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Tuesday that towns must be allowed to regulate the location of drills.

The high court’s ruling on whether Oakmont, home to the famous golf course of the same name, can restrict the location of wells will have big implications across Pennsylvania, a state where landowners big and small are trying to cash in on the vast stores of valuable natural gas below.

“This is way beyond Oakmont. This applies to every municipality in the state,” said borough attorney Clifford Levine. If a lower court ruling is allowed to stand, municipalities could become virtually powerless to control the growing number of gas and oil wells that are being drilled throughout the state.

Propelled by high natural gas prices, companies are scouring for drilling opportunities throughout the region.

Geologists and exploration companies, for example, recently developed a way to extract gas from one large reservoir located some 6,000 to 8,000 feet underground. Though drilling into that large pool has only just begun, prospectors are buying up drilling rights, leading to tensions among neighbors and questions about who can drill where.

In Oakmont, Huntley & Huntley Inc. wants to drill a gas well in a residential subdivision on two adjoining lots that total 10 acres. The families that own the lots would be allotted one-quarter of the gas at no charge and the rest would be sold. The families would share in the profit.

Opponents, mostly neighbors, objected on grounds that the well violated local zoning laws and that the drilling would create noise and jeopardize public safety. The borough council agreed and rejected the company’s proposal.

In July 2007, a state appeals court overturned the decision, saying state law pre-empted municipalities from regulating well locations.

The court relied on its interpretation of a 1992 amendment to the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, but that amendment was intended to address only operational issues, Levine argued.

Copyright: Times Leader