Posts Tagged ‘natural gas drillers’

EPA Is Bashed Over Fracking

Congressman says federal agency can’t wait to regulate


PITTSBURGH – At least one Pennsylvania congressman will not support the FRAC Act this year, as Republican Bill Shuster said federal officials will stop natural gas drilling if they can.

Referring to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Shuster said, “If the EPA can regulate fracking, they will come in here and shut everything down.”

Shuster made his comments at the Marcellus Midstream Conference and Exhibition in Pittsburgh this week. The convention drew natural gas drillers, pipeline builders and other related business representatives from as far away as Utah, Colorado, Texas and Norway.

Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., and Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., have reintroduced the bill formally known as the Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act, or FRAC Act. Similar legislation that calls for the EPA to regulate the process of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, failed to pass in the last Congress.

The bill would:

  • Require disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking, but not the proprietary chemical formula. This would be similar to how a soft drink producer must reveal the ingredients of their product, but not the specific formula.
  • Repeal a provision added to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempting the industry from complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act. Some anti-fracking advocates have commonly referred to this 2005 provision as the “Halliburton Loophole.”
  • Provide power to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to require drillers to have an employee, knowledgeable in responding to emergency situations, present at the well at all times during the exploration or drilling phase.

Shuster said drilling regulations should be left up to the individual states. Furthermore, he not only opposes the FRAC Act, but said, “Bureaucrats in the Army Corps of Engineers are now trying to regulate the natural gas industry.”

“We won’t stand for it,” he said of the corps’ work.

“If the public pushback on this industry is strong, you are going to see regulations you don’t like,” Shuster warned the gas industry leaders.

Shuster, however, said he appreciates the concerns of Pennsylvania residents regarding gas activity, noting, “The coal companies came through here and destroyed our land and left behind acid mine drainage. People are very suspicious of energy production in Pennsylvania.”

However, Shuster thanked the gas industry leaders for their commitments because he believes the business can “reinvigorate Pennsylvania.”

As for the potential fracking regulations, officials with Chesapeake Energy said about 99.5 percent of the 5.6 million gallons of fluid used to hydraulically fracture one of their typical Marcellus Shale natural gas well consists of water and sand.

According to Chesapeake, the company’s most common fracking solution contains 0.5 percent worth of chemicals. These include:

  • hydrochloric acid – found in swimming pool cleaner, and used to help crack the rock;
  • ethylene glycol – found in antifreeze, and used to prevent scale deposits in the pipe;
  • isopropanol – found in deodorant, and used to reduce surface tension;
  • glutaraldehyde – found in disinfectant, and used to eliminate bacteria;
  • petroleum distillate – found in cosmetics, and used to minimize friction;
  • guar gum – found in common household products, and used to suspend the sand;
  • ammonium persulfate – found in hair coloring, and used to delay the breakdown of guar gum;
  • formamide – found in pharmaceuticals, and used to prevent corrosion of the well casing;
  • borate salts – found in laundry detergent, and used to maintain fluid viscosity under high temperatures;
  • citric acid – found in soft drinks, and used to prevent precipitation of metal;
  • potassium chloride – found in medicine and salt substitutes, and used to prevent fluid from interacting with soil;
  • sodium or potassium carbonate – found in laundry detergent, and used to balance acidic substances.


Concerns about frack water aired


HANOVER TWP. – Audience members asked a lot of questions at Tuesday’s meeting of the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority Board meeting, but few walked away with the answers they sought.

The board has for the past 18 months been studying the feasibility of opening an additional facility to treat flow-back water produced by hydraulic fracturing, the process used by natural gas drillers to unlock gas trapped in shale formations.

About 50 packed the meeting room at the authority to comment on the project, which would be built on sanitary authority property in the Lyndwood section of the township.

They voiced concerns about air and noise pollution, the number of trucks that would visit the facility daily, chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive materials in the flowback water, and contamination of the Susquehanna River in the event of an accident.

Chairman James Hankey said the board is still conducting its study and considering different types of facility and different methods of bringing water there for treatment, and as such did not have the answers to many questions asked.

There are no concrete plans or timeline in place for the project, the board said.

When asked by audience members, Hankey responded he could not say if water treated by the facility would contain hazardous or radioactive chemicals, what would be done with sediment removed from treated water, how many trucks would be needed to bring water to the plant daily and what would happen if there were a chemical spill at the site or if the site were flooded.

The crowd grew most impassioned when Hankey said the board was asked to look into the possibility of building the treatment facility.

When asked by whom, Hankey stated “I’m not sure,” prompting cries of “ah, come on, you know,” “pathetic,” and the names of natural gas drilling companies.

Township residents also questioned why the sanitary authority wants to build the facility in Hanover rather than in the northern tier, where gas drilling is much more prevalent.

“Can’t you build a plant closer to where this activity is actually going on?” asked Frank Marra of Hanover Township. “We don’t get the benefit of the leased property up there, and we want to get the tail end of it?”

Hankey said profits raised by the facility could reduce frequency and severity of sewer fees Wyoming Valley property owners pay.

After the meeting, board members referred questions to John Minora, spokesman for Pennsylvania Northeast Aqua Resources, the authority’s consultant.

Minora said much of the water produced from Pennsylvania shale gas wells is currently being trucked to Ohio and West Virginia for treatment and disposal.

“We’re closer,” Minora said. “We’re reducing truck traffic, we’re reducing wear and tear on the roads and we’re reducing pollution.”

Minora added that existing infrastructure at the sanitary authority, including unused tanks that could be used to store treated water and excess heat currently being wasted by the authority, make the site an attractive one.

Minora said the authority is considering three methods of bringing water to the proposed facility: tanker trucks, rail transport, and piping in water from staging areas away from residential areas.

“We want to do it in a way that impacts on the community as minimally as possible,” he said.

Hankey said the authority would consider all scientific information the public submitted.

Members of the audience submitted a draft plan of the recently begun federal Environmental Protection Agency study of hydraulic fracturing’s effect on water supplies recently, a scientific article about the health risks posed by chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and the Pennsylvania State Police’s FracNET enforcement effort, which targets trucks hauling water for gas drillers.

Tom Jiunta of the Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition also submitted a list of more than 40 questions about the project he hopes the authority will answer.

“I think their lack of transparency had the crowd quite perturbed,” Jiunta said of the board after the meeting.

“I think they need to be more forthcoming. … They need to go above and beyond to show that their decisions are science-based, not profit-based. People in Luzerne County demand accountability.”

Copyright: Times Leader


Most stopped Shale trucks cited

Published November 10, 2010

Three-quarters of haulers for drillers came up short in inspections, say state cops.

Three-quarters of trucks hauling water for natural-gas drillers stopped in a recent enforcement operation targeting the gas industry were cited, state police reported Tuesday.

State police on Tuesday released the results of their latest FracNET operation, an enforcement initiative targeting commercial vehicles hauling water for Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling operations.

State police and the state Department of Environmental Protection cited 1,066 of the approximately 1,400 trucks they inspected in the operation, conducted Oct. 25 to 27 in areas of the state where Marcellus Shale gas drilling has created increased truck traffic.

“Large numbers of vehicles are required to support the drilling operations, and the state is committed to ensuring that those vehicles are in good condition and operated safely,” state police Commissioner Frank E. Pawlowski said.

During FracNET inspections, state police teams check vehicle braking systems, exterior lighting and other equipment that plays a role in operational safety, as well as whether drivers possess the appropriate operator licenses. DEP inspects a more narrow range of issues pertaining to vehicle weight, proper waste-hauler authorizations and standards for maintaining safe and secure loads.

DEP Secretary John Hanger said DEP personnel inspected 254 other trucks during the operation, issuing notices of violation for 65 of the vehicles and nine citations.

“These inspections are crucial because they ensure that wastewater haulers are working to comply with the commonwealth’s environmental regulations and are keeping our roadways safe for other drivers,” Hanger said. “Taking the time to do so now will go a long way toward making a positive difference as drilling continues.”

State Police Troop P, Wyoming, which covers Bradford, Sullivan, Wyoming and part of Luzerne counties, conducted 202 inspections, issued 476 citations and placed 84 vehicles out of service.

In addition, DEP’s Northeast region, which covers Carbon, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, Northampton, Pike, Schuylkill, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming, conducted 78 inspections and issued four notices of violation and two citations.

In a similar operation in September, Troop P reported violations in 154 of 207 trucks inspected. They issued 401 citations and placed 75 vehicles out of service in that FracNET operation.

Contact the writer MATT HUGHES

View article here.

Copyright:  The Times Leader

Gas well regulation approved

By Robert Swift (Harrisburg Bureau Chief)
Published: October 13, 2010

HARRISBURG – Natural gas drillers will have to use stronger cement in wells and publicly disclose more information about chemicals used in fracking fluids under a rule approved Tuesday by a state board.

The well-construction rule approved 14-1 by the Environmental Quality Board aims to prevent gas from migrating into water supplies as a result of drilling operations and establishing notification procedures in the event of spills or water-pollution problems.

The well-construction rule is one of several being implemented by the Department of Environmental Protection in response to the drilling boom under way in the Marcellus Shale. But key well-casing provisions would apply also to established shallow-gas wells in Northwest Pennsylvania.

DEP first proposed the well rule last year, but it added requirements in the wake of a well blowout in June in Clearfield County. The focus on preventing gas migration gained priority after the well-publicized contamination of drinking water wells in Dimock Twp. due to faulty or overpressurized casing in Marcellus Shale wells.

Key provisions would:

– Require greater use of well blowout prevention equipment.

– Require drillers to report water pollution or water-loss problems within 24 hours instead of by the current 10 days.

– Require drillers to publicly disclose chemicals, chemical additives, volume of fluids and sources of water and recycled water used in hydraulic fracturing operations. Drillers can designate some information such as the concentration of chemicals as proprietary trade secrets. In that case, public release of that information would be governed by the state right-to-know law, DEP officials said.

– Contain new requirements for driller notification in the event of gas-migration problems.

– Set guidelines for exploration of deeper gas deposits in the Onondaga and Utica formations.

“These rules now are as strong as any in the country,” said DEP Secretary John Hanger who predicted that gas-migration problems will decline as a result.

However, the Environmental Defense Fund, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that works on environmental issues, said the rules would be stronger if they were to include four proposals it suggested. These include more monitoring of the pressure between a well casing and rock formation, a requirement to keep well-cementing records on permanent file instead of just five years, giving DEP authority to take the lead in investigating well problems and a clearer definition of protected water supplies.

The well-construction rule now faces review by the House and Senate environmental resources committees and a final vote by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission before it takes effect.

View article here.

Copyright:  The Citizens Voice

Professor: Don’t deter drilling

He tells symposium Pa.’s “bureaucratic BS” is limiting operations.

PLAINS TWP. – To hear John Baen describe it, Pennsylvania is like an awkward, naive suitor, dithering over the details so much that it’s stumbling on the walk to the front door and turning off its hot date: natural gas drillers.

The industry has recently increased its complaints about what it sees as the state’s excessive regulatory procedures – or “bureaucratic BS,” as Baen put it on Wednesday – that are souring hopes to ramp up drilling in the potentially lucrative Marcellus Shale about a mile under much of northern and western Pennsylvania, among other states.

Keeping things green is important, the real-estate expert and University of North Texas professor said, but not as much as making some green. “I know you’re sensitive to your environment and all that, but it’s four acres (disturbed for drilling) out of 5,000” acres that are then producing gas, he said. “Would you allow a drilling rig in your back yard? … It depends on what they’re willing to pay you extra.”

Baen was one of three gas industry experts speaking at a Marcellus Shale Symposium hosted by the Joint Urban Studies Center at the Woodlands Inn & Resort. The center, a partnership of local colleges and universities, provides economic research for regional planning.

The experts were brought in to discuss their impressions from the proliferation of drilling in the Barnett Shale, a similar gas-filled rock formation in north Texas. Though concerns were addressed, such as potential environmental damage and likely workforce shortages, sanguine profiteering was emphasized repeatedly.

William Brackett, the managing editor of an influential Barnett Shale newsletter, noted the local job market and economy ballooned 50 percent in 2007 to 83,823 jobs and an $8.2-billion economic benefit. The same good fortune is befalling rural Pennsylvania farmers who were near destitute, he said. “All the sudden, they get a new barn and are able to send their kids to college.”

Of all the speakers, the most subdued in his support of the industry was Matt Sheppard, a director of corporate development for Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy, which sponsored the symposium. Though natural gas drilling has been in the state for decades, it has lain pretty low, he said. “This is not an industry that has done a great job of talking about things, explaining things,” he said. “We’re here for one reason, and that is that Americans are demanding cleaner energy right now. … And the truth is we’re not going to the other way.”

The presenters said the industry is looking for straightforward rules like in other states, which have standardized drilling manuals and few other regulatory hoops. But despite Baen’s dire predictions that drillers might pull up stakes, Sheppard assured his company was likely sticking it out.

“At Chesapeake, we’re big believers in organized development,” he said. “You’re not going to see a lot of companies come in here and drill one well and leave. … You invest this amount of money in a state, you’re going to be around a while.”

Copyright: Times Leader

Shale town mayor tells drilling woes

Mauri Rapp Abington Journal Correspondent

Sir Francis Bacon once said “Knowledge is power.” To that famous quote, Calvin Tillman adds “Once you know, you can’t not know.”

Tillman, the mayor of DISH, Texas, was one of four panelists in attendance at “Impacts of Gas Drilling and Your Community,” a Marcellus Shale drilling information seminar held April 29 at the Clark Summit fire hall. DISH, a town of fewer than 200 residents located approximately 25 miles from the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, garnered national attention after changing its name from Clark in exchange for free cable television service for ten years from DISH Network.

DISH has also attracted another kind of attention: the eye of natural gas companies drilling in the Barnett Shale region, a natural gas field which stretches approximately 5,000 square miles across the state of Texas. Tillman called DISH the “Grand Central Station” of the Barnett Shale play, with 11 compressor stations, three metering stations and more than 20 natural gas pipelines located within less than two square miles.

Tillman described to the 150-plus people in attendance April 29 the impact natural gas drilling has had on his town. To date, the Barnett Shale play has added approximately $8 to $10 billion and 100,000 jobs to the Texas economy, Tillman said. The industry has also added toxic chemicals to DISH’s air, he said. A study performed in August 2009 by Wolf Eagle Environmental showed that the air contained high concentrations of carcinogens and neurotoxins. Tillman continues to advocate for the town’s population, and on April 22 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality installed a continuous air monitor in DISH. “I believe more testing should be done,” he said.

The mayor has relayed his story to audiences in the Marcellus Shale region during the past several months. Tillman said he is not against the industry and believes in working with it to get things done, but feels that citizens and communities should go into leases with their eyes open. He said that certain measures, such as green technologies, declaration of areas such as schools and parks off limits to drilling, and a separation between the DEP regulating and permitting bodies could help make the industry safer. Tillman also spoke in favor of a severance tax for Pennsylvania. “I hate to break it to you, but the oil and gas industry came into Pennsylvania and picked your pockets,” Tillman said. “You need to have a severance tax to pay for roads, to pay for environmental issues, to pay for more DEP workers.”

Putting a personal face on the Marcellus Shale play was Victoria Switzer, a natural gas lessor from Dimock Township who said she wished she knew when she signed her lease what she knows now. “We’ve all heard the glories of the natural gas industry,” Switzer said. “I’m not going to dispute some of those things, but I’m going to show you what comes with the package deal.”

Switzer said that for the past couple of years, she has been living in a gas field with 63 wells located within nine square miles, the closest one 710 feet from her own home. Twenty-four of those wells have had violations, said Switzer. She now conducts what she calls “Victoria’s Toxic Tours” for citizens, journalists and public officials interested in seeing the impact natural gas drilling has had in her township. “You need to know what is coming your way,” she told the audience.

Panelist Paul Lumia, executive director of North Branch Land Trust, provided tips for those who decide to lease to natural gas drillers, including getting to know one’s gas man and remaining vigilant in reporting suspected violations to DEP. Lumia also encourages the crowd to pressure policymakers into decisions that preserve the environment. “Don’t just assume that your neighbors will do it,” Lumia said. “Protecting our land is up to us.”

Also on hand was George E. Turner, a professional geologist with more than 20 years of experience with groundwater and water testing. Turner advised those considering natural gas leasing to get their water tested beforehand. “This gives you legal proof in case your water is contaminated,” he said.

Scott Perry, deputy director of the DEP Bureau of Oil and Gas Management, was on hand to answer questions from the audience.

Copyright: Times Leader

Some colleges add programs to train workers

By Andrew M.
Times Leader Staff Writer

The landscape of the state’s northern tier is changing as natural gas drillers set up shop from the Poconos west to Tioga County.

The burgeoning industry also is bringing change to the curricula at some local colleges hoping to capitalize on the need for a skilled and trained work force.

Lackawanna College in Scranton and Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport have launched programs specifically catering to those interested in securing employment in the natural gas and ancillary fields. Other schools, including Johnson College and Keystone College, are investigating courses to prepare students for jobs in the industry.

When the industry made initial steps to move in to the region, Lackawanna College got in on the ground floor.

“Our goal was to try to find a niche where we could train people for jobs they could find here,” said Larry D. Milliken, director of energy programs at the college. The school, with input from the industry, created an applied science degree in Oil and Gas Production Technology program in December 2008.

The school asked Milliken, a former gas company employee with a background as an economic geologist who lives in Dunmore, to help with the program.

He sees great potential for the field and the creation of jobs, as companies look to tap into the gas supplies within the Marcellus Shale, a layer of gas-laden rock about a mile underground across most of Pennsylvania.

“I’m not sure most people realize the magnitude of what the Marcellus can mean and do for the state. … It’s going to be a huge game changer in Pennsylvania.”

Milliken said he sees hundreds of immediate jobs and the potential for thousands more as a result of gas drilling.

As an example, he said one well tender will be needed for every 20 wells that come on line. This year alone, he said, more than 1,000 wells are anticipated to be drilled and that number should double next year. This will mean 50 to 100 new well-tender jobs will be created every year for the next 20 years, he projects.

To prepare potential employees for those jobs, Lackawanna College offers an associate’s degree in natural gas technology and is developing an operating and maintenance degree program in compression technology that could debut next fall.

In addition, the college will soon start giving accounting students at its Towanda Center the option of customizing their degree to prepare them to work in the accounting side of the natural gas industry, Milliken said.

Milliken said Lackawanna relied heavily on curricula and course work offered by established programs at Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, Wyo.; North Central Texas College in Gainesville, Texas, and Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. Using that material, Lackawanna created an outline for its own potential programs and sent it to 10 gas companies “for feedback and modifications before settling in on our own curriculum.”

At the moment, the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport is the only other place to get industry-specific training. The school has partnered with the Penn State Cooperative Extension to create The Marcellus Shale Education & Training Center.

Opened in 2008, the center will identify the industry’s work force needs and respond with education tracks that train people for those jobs. Careers include welders, construction workers, drivers and machine operators and fabricators.Tracy Brundage, the school’s managing director of the Workforce Development and Continuing Education programs, said that as the landscape of the Northern Tier changes, so too do course offerings at the college.

She said input from energy companies has been influential in the design of 21 new courses, including those through the Fit 4 Natural Gas program developed by work force development boards in more than a dozen Northern Tier counties using Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry funds.

Officials from Lackawanna College also lauded the affiliations and assistance offered by gas companies.

“They’ve been very active,” Milliken said.

Last week, Chesapeake Energy donated $50,000 to help Lackawanna College expand its Natural Gas Technology Program at its New Milford Center campus in Susquehanna County. The college plans to use the money for capital-equipment costs in fitting out their new facilities for the program that began last fall.

“We’ve been an eager partner in these efforts,” said Brian Grove, director of corporate development for Chesapeake Energy.

Milliken said that in the short time the program’s been up and running at Lackawanna, the partnership has seen tremendous interest from potential students and positive feedback from the industry.

The companies reflected praise for the two-way-street relationship it has with the local schools.

Grove said “crafting an effective educational infrastructure will benefit the community far beyond its borders by equipping locals with skills they can market within the industry. A highly skilled work force is critical to our success as a company and the community’s long-term economic success as well.”

Brundage said that while the program at Penn Tech is still “in its infancy,” she, too, feels confident that the college’s programs have progressed nicely in a short period of time. “I think we’ve positioned ourselves pretty well with the industry. We’re not going to be able to meet all of their needs but we can help with a lot of them,” Brundage said.

So far 65 students have taken a course, including 14 who have completed welding courses. One course was created specifically at the request of the gas industry.

“They told us what they need as far as some of the welding components, so we aligned some things internally to meet those needs,” Brundage said.

Wendy J. Wiedenbeck, a spokeswoman for Denver-based EnCana Oil and Gas, said it’s too early to discuss her company’s needs because it is still in the exploratory stages. The company is looking at drilling specifically in Luzerne County.

“If we are successful and determine we would like to develop additional wells in the area, an important first step will be to understand what work-force development programs already exist in the area and how the curriculum aligns with business needs,” she said.

“New curriculum and training programs often come into existence after we’ve been operating in an area for some time,” Wiedenbeck added. “They evolve from the relationships we build along the way and are very much the result of a collaborative approach. In areas where we have established operations, we’ve collaborated with local colleges to create or build upon programs that help community members build the skills needed to compete for industry jobs.”

Andrew M. Seder, a Times Leader staff writer, may be reached at 570-829-7269.

Copyright: Times Leader

Marcellus Shale training

College in Williamsport preparing workers

By Rory
Staff Writer

WILLIAMSPORT – Like many of his classmates, Mike Harris already has a job in electricity-generation lined up for when he graduates this spring.

Mike Harris of Dalton cools a piece of metal in a quench tank at Pennsylvania College of Technology Marcellus Shale Education & Training Center. After he earns his degree in welding later this year, he’s taking a job in Illinois. The college’s new center would help students like him land jobs in the local gas drilling industry.

The only problem is it will require the Dalton native to relocate to Illinois.

Soon enough, though, future students in these same welding classes at Pennsylvania College of Technology could be in a curriculum that funnels them into local jobs with natural gas drillers working in the Marcellus Shale region.

The Marcellus Shale Education & Training Center at the college is in its early infancy, only envisioned late last year and opened earlier this year, but plans are for it to expand quickly.

A collaboration with the Penn State Cooperative Extension, the center will identify the industry’s work force needs and respond with education tracks that train people for those jobs, said Jeffrey Lorson, an industrial technology specialist at the college who’s running the training center.

“With the escalation and the things with the Marcellus, there was clearly a need in the work force,” he said. “We knew we had a tremendous fit to support the industry.”

The jobs are certainly here, Harris said, and there aren’t enough local workers. “They can’t find anybody,” he said about drillers.

Lorson’s family has a motel in Bainbridge, N.Y., near Binghamton, and the place is constantly packed. “There’s guys coming from all over the place” to work for the drilling companies, he said.

He felt Penn College graduates would be “competitive” for jobs in the industry, which could feed off the college for workers in fields from welding to heavy machinery operation.

“The center has the potential to provide very meaningful training options for local residents,” said Stephen Rhoads, the president of the Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Association. Certain skills, such as building and maintaining infrastructure and inspecting gauges and other moveable parts, “are all skills that could very easily find a home up in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” he said.

“If the industry grows as we expect it to, there will be long-term career opportunities.”

While he plans to enjoy traveling while starting his career, Harris said he’s looking ahead to hometown job security.

“I feel very confident, and I’d love to stay in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but right now as things are starting to take off, I think it’s easier for me to leave and get some experience,” he said.

The center could also help students outline career paths, an idea Harris has already considered. He’s planning to become certified in visual inspections.

“It keeps me out in the field, but it’s managerial,” he said. “You’re in the middle, which is pretty much where I wouldn’t mind being.”

See more photos of the Pennsylvania College of Technology Marcellus Shale Education & Training Center at

Copyright: Times Leader