Posts Tagged ‘natural gas wells’

Multi-Well Pads in the Marcellus Shale

The ability of energy developers to drill multiple natural gas wells from a single location (or “pad”) has been touted as a major technological breakthrough driving natural gas development in the Marcellus Shale. The utilization of so-called “multi-well pads” also has large environmental and socio-economic implications, as the landscape disruption of as many as 12 or more natural gas wells and associated pipeline infrastructure can be concentrated in a single location. Furthermore, the total amount of industrial activity can be compressed as these wells can be drilled in rapid-succession.

A 2010 Nature Conservancy report by Nels Johnson estimated that – if current development trends continue through 2030 –the disruption of 10,000 development locations in Pennsylvania critical forest habitat could be eliminated by drilling an average of 10 wells-per-pad compared to an average of 4 wells-per-pad.

Factors Influencing Multi-well Pad Development
The ability of energy developers to drill large numbers of wells on a single pad requires that they have large contiguous lease holdings, a capital outlay that will support the expense of a prolonged drilling and completion timeline, and, the ability to overcome on-the-ground logistical challenges, according to a 2011 report led by Robert Kuntz. If confronted with enough of these constraints, energy companies may instead find it easier to develop an array of single or small-number multi-well pads. Market pressures can also incentivize the development of singular wells in order to quickly secure long-term rights to the mineral acreage (an industry practice termed “hold by production”). Conversely, factors like difficult terrain or leases that do not allow surface occupancy can discourage the development of single well pads and instead encourage the development of multi-well locations.

Has the number of wells per pad changed?
Despite the development of over 3,000 Marcellus Shale wells in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since 2006, this is the first analysis of the distribution of single-well vs. multi-well pads in Pennsylvania. By the end of 2007, during the early exploration of the Marcellus Shale, each of the 18 wells drilled in Pennsylvania was developed on its own well pad. In 2008, 18% of the 165 wells drilled were developed on new multi-well pads or previously constructed well pads. In 2009, 56% of the 703 wells were drilled on multi-well pads. By 2010, multi-well development comprised 77% of the 1,373 Marcellus wells drilled. As of August 10, 2011, 83% of the Marcellus wells drilled were located on a multi-well pad.

How Many Wells Per Pad?
While multi-well pads have increased over the past five years, the overall ratio of wells-per-pad remains low. Since 2006, over 1,553 Marcellus well pads have been developed to support 3,279 Marcellus wells in Pennsylvania indicating a well-to-pad average of 2.11. The data show that this ratio is increasing: in 2009 the average was 1.53 wells per pad, and in 2010 the average was 2.15.

When well pad development in Pennsylvania State Forest and Allegheny National Forest is compared to privately held lands, roughly 96 well pads and 319 wells have been developed on state or national forest leases, a ratio of 3.32 wells per pad, compared to 1,457 well pads and 2,960 wells developed outside the state and national forest lands, or a ratio of 2.03. It is unknown from this preliminary analysis whether the discrepancy is due to regulatory incentives, pipeline availability, lease construction, or differences in the terrain.

The Marcellus Shale development picture reveals a strong trend toward multi-well pad drilling with just over 83% of all wells drilled in 2011 appearing on a multi-well pad. Also, about 90% of all drilling appears to be occurring outside state and national forest leases. However, the trend toward multi-well pads is tempered by the reality that the number of wells per well pad is still hovering between two and three state-wide. While it is technically feasible to drill 12 wells or more per pad, thus far the vast majority of well pads contain 1, 2, or 3 wells.

A common perception in Pennsylvania is that a single well may be initially drilled to hold a drilling block by production and as drilling matures a rig may return to the pad to drill additional wells. However, after four years of significant development, once a drilling rig moves on to another location, there appears to be a small probability that it will return to drill additional wells on the same pad in the near future. As of December 31, 2010, only 13% of single well pads have seen a drilling rig brought back to drill additional wells. For example, in 2009 the average number of wells drilled on pads developed that year was 1.53, and by mid 2011 the average on those same pads had increased to 1.70. Thus far, the majority of multi-wells pads that exist in Pennsylvania were initially developed that way, and most have contained only a small number of wells.

Energy companies indicate that they are still in the early stages of development of one of the largest gas fields in the world – covering as much as 95,000 square miles – so it is possible they will eventually shift their strategy toward drilling additional wells on existing pads. In fact, further analysis suggests that in most cases operators are not drilling single wells instead of multi-well pads, as only about 6% of pads with 1, 2, or 3 wells were drilled within 1500 of feet of another well pad. The lack of nearby wells may indicate the early stages of a longer term infill strategy.

The practice of drilling multiple wells on a single location holds great benefit for reducing ecological and other impacts from development of the Marcellus Shale, but the evidence of this practice being performed thus far in Pennsylvania remains mixed. Current evidence of infill on previously constructed well pads and the overall number of wells per pad remains low. However, Marcellus development is still in its early stages in Pennsylvania and the number of multi-well pads is increasing.

Excerpted  from the Clinton County Natural Gas Task Force ( ) weekly columns

This article was excerpted by the author (Ladlee) from the Cornell University Community and Regional Development Institute Research and Policy Brief Series Issue Number 43/September 2011. A complete copy of the policy brief can be downloaded at:
Jim Ladlee serves as Director for Penn State Extension in Clinton County and Associate Director for the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, and Director of Special Initiatives for the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center.
Jeffrey Jacquet is a PhD Candidate at Cornell University and author of numerous Marcellus Shale Policy and Workforce Briefs.


Posted at


Debate over proposed Dimock water line divides community

By Laura Legere (Staff Writer)
Published: October 25, 2010

DIMOCK TWP. – A wealth of gas beneath this small Susquehanna County community has brought it a new industry, a national reputation for bad luck and a host of polarizing issues: the risks and damage to water, soil and air; the fair rate for leased land; the condition of the roads and the shape of the economy.

But nothing has defined the division in Dimock Township like a line that exists, for now, only on paper: a proposed $11.8 million water main to bring fresh water to 18 families with methane linked to gas drilling in their wells – a pipe that will travel along Route 29, the thoroughfare that cuts the township in two.

For the group of citizens and businesses called Enough Already that formed this month to oppose the line, the project represents a big-government solution that penalizes many taxpayers for the benefit of a few and threatens to drive away the gas companies that have brought them money or jobs.

For the residents who need the line – those whose water has been contaminated with methane the state found seeping from faulty natural gas wells – the opposition is an attack on their health and safety that comes after they have waited two years for clean water.

“To have neighbor go against neighbor – our own neighbors are doing this,” said Norma Fiorentino, the retired nurse whose water well first drew the state’s attention to the methane problem when the concrete slab above it was blown apart in January 2009.

“This is a real stab in the back for us,” she said. “That was not our fault this happened.”

‘We’re fed up’

Enough Already’s two dozen core members met for the first time in early October, days after Department of Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger announced a plan to use public financing to build the 12.5-mile waterline then sue to get the money back from Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., the company deemed responsible for the contamination.

The group declared its opposition to the line in an ad in the Mulligan’s Shopping Guide, a Susquehanna County advertising publication, on Oct. 13. It began posting fliers with the same logo – a blue pipe labeled “water line” crossed out in red – in businesses and on public bulletin boards along the proposed route from Montrose to Dimock.

Dan and Gretchen Backer posted the fliers in the windows at the Inn at Montrose, the hotel and restaurant they bought and expanded since 2008 to serve the gas workers.

Gretchen Backer summarized the group’s position: The state has “gone amok” by siding with families who are suing Cabot for contamination the driller says it did not cause and using the opportunity to demand a “handout” from a wealthy company in order to expand a public utility.

“There’s just enough flags that say this is ridiculous,” she said.

Before the lunch rush last Tuesday, she and Dan Backer sat at a table in the tavern they renovated entirely except for the original bar made from wood reclaimed from a bowling lane.

The couple touts the fact that they have benefited from the influx of industry, and they think not enough is said about the good influence of gas drilling.

“Enough Already is enough with the negativity,” Dan Backer said. He fears the combination of state enforcement actions against the gas industry and a public perception of Dimock as a “wasteland” will kill the new opportunities.

“If they left, we’re done. We fold,” he said. “We can’t survive serving steaks and cheeseburgers.”

At Lockhart’s – a combination tag and title business, gas station and diner about 2½ miles south on Route 29 – the Enough Already flier was posted last week on a cork board below another advertising a chicken-and-biscuit dinner.

Don Lockhart, the owner of the business for 26 years, sat on a stool at the lunch counter, where he keeps a petition asking the state infrastructure investment authority to deny financing for the project.

“They’re going to shove this water down everybody’s throats,” he said. The affected residents should have clean water, he said, but the state should consider the impact on people who are not involved with the problem and think of less-intrusive options, like building a reservoir closer to the affected homes.

“All you’re getting is the ‘wah, wah’ part of this,” he said. “You’re not getting any common sense. All you hear about is ‘these poor people.’ The people, we’re fed up.”

Residents without businesses also have signed on with the group, including at least three who have had replacement water provided by Cabot because they believe drilling has damaged the quality or quantity of water in their wells.

Martha Locey, a 78-year-old woman who lives on her family’s farm in Hop Bottom, gave $20 – the money she had in her purse during the group’s first meeting – to help pay for the Enough Already ad. Her farm’s two water wells have had methane in them since they were drilled in the 1940s and 1970s, she said, and signed an affidavit for Cabot testifying to that fact.

“I came out with the truth, because I know it has been in the water,” she said.

The company has used evidence of pre-existing methane to help prove its case that it did not cause the problems in the Dimock wells. It also paid Dr. Robert W. Watson, an emeritus professor of petroleum and natural gas engineering at Penn State University, about $25,000 to review its materials and well-completion records. Watson concluded that Cabot’s wells did not cause methane to seep into aquifers.

DEP counters Cabot’s evidence with a photographic record of methane bubbling out of the company’s gas wells, documentation of excessive well pressures, and isotopic analysis – a kind of chemical fingerprinting – that matches the gas in the affected water supplies with the gas coming from Cabot’s wells.

Hanger has explained that the waterline is the only remedy that will guarantee the families clean water – now and in the future – because there is no certainty that methane will stop migrating from Cabot’s wells.

He also dismissed the conclusions reached by Watson.

“No surprise that his report supports the company that is paying him,” he said in an e-mail.

‘Stirring up trouble’

The most visible battle in Dimock has been the one waged between DEP and Cabot in press releases, public announcements, letters and ads.

Hanger sees evidence of Cabot’s influence in the formation of Enough Already, an accusation the group and Cabot both deny.

“For Cabot to constantly stir up trouble is very disappointing,” Hanger said. “They are doing everything to deflect attention from their own failings and creating distractions from the real issue here, which is they drilled bad wells.”

The businesses hosting the Enough Already petition are either Cabot contractors or frequently do business with the company or its workers, he pointed out. One business, listed on the ad as Guy Parrish’s, is hired by Cabot to deliver replacement water to families affected by the stray methane.

Cabot spokesman George Stark said the driller “does business with many Susquehanna County companies, having invested nearly a billion dollars in the region. Cabot did not ask businesses to participate in any organization or group in Susquehanna County, or anywhere else for that matter.”

Harold Lewis, a resident who has worked delivering water to the affected homes, built a large handmade sign with the words “water pipe line” crossed out in black in his front yard just beyond a telephone pole wrapped with four No Trespassing signs.

The anti-waterline sign faces across the road toward two homes with tainted water.

“It’s nothing against the neighbors or anything like that,” he said in a hallway of Elk Lake High School after a meeting organized by Enough Already on Thursday night. “It’s against the pipeline.”

The Lewis family also had replacement water supplied by Cabot for several months after they noticed an odor in their well water. Lewis said he was just “nervous in the beginning,” but tests show the well water is fine.

“I know all the neighbors think I’m mad at them – I’m not,” he said. “They’re probably mad at me now.”

The meeting on Thursday was punctuated with shouts from members of the audience, many from outside the town or county, who wore blue ribbons in support of the affected families in Dimock.

As the meeting ended, those wearing blue ribbons looked warily across the auditorium as those without ribbons were being interviewed for television. On the other side of the room, audience members sympathetic to Enough Already mumbled on their way out the doors that the families’ complaints were “all about the money.” Others said the families were “pumping chemicals into their own wells.”

Lynn Senick, a Montrose resident and critic of the industry, stood outside and touched the ribbon on her lapel.

“I hate the divisiveness and the lies,” she said. “I hate that the DEP, their authority is being flouted and challenged. I don’t like to walk down the street and feel like I can’t talk to certain people, or that because I have this” – she pointed to her ribbon – “now I’m an enemy.”

Residents who will be served by the waterline also recognized the stakes are higher than hurt feelings.

“If we have regulations and laws but DEP won’t hold the gas companies responsible, we might as well have no DEP,” said Victoria Switzer, one of the affected residents, who paused in the hall after apologizing to the presenters for the heckling from the families’ out-of-town supporters.

“No laws, no regs, just gas,” she said. “Welcome to Dimock.”

View article here.

Copyright: The Citizens Voice

Rendell sees some life on severance tax talks

By Robert Swift (Harrisburg Bureau Chief)
Published: October 14, 2010

HARRISBURG – Negotiations over a state severance tax on natural gas showed some signs of life Wednesday as Gov. Ed Rendell offered encouragement about a private round of leadership talks.

The governor said discussions will continue in coming days to find a compromise tax on natural gas produced by deep wells in the Marcellus Shale formation. He said the tax rate is still a sub-ject of debate, while informal agreement has been reached on specific language to exempt traditional shallow gas wells from the tax.

The governor’s tone was different than on Tuesday when he and legislative leaders of both chambers voiced recriminations over the failure to enact a severance tax by the Oct. 1 target date. Both House Democratic and Senate Republican leaders declared their intent to pass a tax under a provision of the state fiscal code enacted in July.

“Color me optimistic today,” said Mr. Rendell.

It appears that any passage of a severance tax, even if an agreement is struck, is still days or even weeks off.

Senate GOP leaders are cooler in their view of progress. But they have agreed to add session days in advance of the Nov. 2 election if they get a compromise bill from the House. House Democratic leaders have already indicated they will return to vote on a compromise bill.

Mr. Rendell said his compromise offer to phase in a severance tax rate starting at 3 percent and reaching 5 percent by the third year put the talks in gear. But Senate Republicans see things differently.

“It would still be one of the highest (severance) taxes in the nation,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-25, Jefferson County. “Unless the governor is willing to negotiate that rate down, I don’t see any progress in getting things done.”

The GOP caucus wants to phase in the tax at 1.5 percent during the first five years’s of a well’s production before a 5 percent rate kicks in.

Mr. Rendell’s proposal would exempt up to 10 percent of some production and distribution costs from the tax, while Senate Republicans want to exempt 100 percent of production costs.

The governor said agreement has been reached on exempting so-called stripper wells producing less than 90,000 cubic feet of gas per day from the tax and progress made on exempting shallow well drillers from a self-reporting requirement.

“A major concern that has emerged in this debate is that small, independent producers that do not drill in the Marcellus Shale would be subject to the proposed tax or be forced to spend millions to prove they qualify for an exemption,” said Louis D’Amico, president of the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association.

Contact the writer:

View article here.

Copyright:  The Scranton Times

Welcome to Wayne County

Home of folks who know a thing or two about clean energy from the Marcellus Shale — and aren’t afraid to tell DRBC how to use it

Before there was a Hoover, Grand Coulee or Niagara, there was a Wallenpaupack – a manmade lake dug out of Pike and Wayne counties featuring a state-of-the-art dam and 44-megawatt hydroelectric generator. It was a project that took 2,700 men and five million board feet of Douglas-fir to complete. But when it was done, folks in northeast Pennsylvania found themselves in possession of a clean energy resource that could be converted safely and efficiently into jobs and opportunity for the region. That, and a lake full of walleye.

Nearly 85 years removed from the dedication of Lake Wallenpaupack, residents of the Upper Delaware are at it again today. Just like back then, they’re looking to harness the promise and potential of clean energy in a way that makes a better future possible for themselves and their grandkids. These days, though, their focus is on the opportunities available through the development of clean-burning natural gas – and specifically, from the world-class shale formation known as the Marcellus.

How much natural gas are we talking here? Across the entire Marcellus, potentially an awful lot – as much as 516 trillion cubic feet if the geologists have it right, which, if actualized, would make the Marcellus the second largest natural gas field in the entire world (behind one in Iran, of all places).

But here’s a little wrinkle for you: News out of Harrisburg this week suggests the Marcellus resource base in Northeast PA may be a lot more significant than some had initially thought. Looking for a sweet-spot? Turns out 19 of the top 20 producing natural gas wells in the state over the past year can be found in a three-county stretch along the northern tier. Laura Legere of the Times-Tribune has more:

Of the top 20 producing wells, all but one are in Susquehanna, Bradford or Tioga counties. Raymond Deacon, an analyst with Pritchard Capital Partners LLC, sorted the wells’ production depending on how long they were on line in order to measure their performance. “It seemed like in every case, all the counties in the Northeast really stood out as being among the strongest in terms of production,” he said.

West to east, that’s Tioga, Bradford and Susquehanna. Can you name the county that comes next? It’s Wayne, with Pike County to the immediate south. So what do you think the chances are that folks up in Wayne and Pike are sitting atop a reservoir with the same sort of natural gas potential as they’re seeing from their neighbors? Pretty good, right? Unfortunately, and as we’ve written in the past, if the West Trenton, N.J.-based Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) has its way, those folks may never get to know one way or the other.

But sort through the weekend boating crowd, and set aside the second-summer-home crew from Manhattan, and you’ll find a group of folks in the area who have been part of that community for three, four, even five generations or more. Folks whose ancestors came to Honesdale back in the day to work on the railroads; others who can trace their lineage back to 19th century bridge builders from Milford. And guess what? Turns out these people aren’t all that keen about letting an out-of-state commission deny them the ability to develop their private mineral rights without a fight – or at least an explanation.

What exactly do they want, and why exactly do they want it? Take a look for yourself. Released earlier this week by the Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance, and co-signed by more than dozen local landowner, farmer and small business groups, the document linked to above (and here again) puts forth 10 separate requests that, under any other normal circumstance, before any other normal commission, would likely have already been incorporated as a matter of course. That’s not the case with the DRBC. But that’s not stopping folks on the PA side of the river from making their position on the matter crystal clear.

The natural gas industry offers unparalleled economic opportunities for the region with extremely limited impacts on the natural environment. No industry offers so much, with so small a footprint on the land that supports our tourism industry and lifestyle. … Our three principal counties suffer incomes that are 30-65% below those of the remainder of the DRBC region, with a median household income of only $44,000 a year. … The benefits to the nation from development of such clean energy here at home … compel us to insist the DRBC move forward promptly with regulation to ensure responsible gas drilling can take place now.

As you’ll see, the document not only stands up as a powerful public statement, but it’s also just dripping with substance. How does natural gas stack up with other energy when it comes to water usage? “It requires 0.84 to 3.70 gallons of water to produce one million BTUs of natural gas energy … compared with more than 2,500 gallons per one million BTUs of biofuels energy” – and according to federal reports, that’s on the conservative end. What about those who say the area’s lost too much forestland over the years? “A detailed land use study … found forest cover increased by 44,458 acres or 16.7% between 1959 and 2008.”

But wait, there’s more. Looking to catch up on the latest trends in the world of well-spacing? “Three years ago, the speculation was that each gas well might serve 40 acres. Two years ago, a 640-acre unit with four wells became standard. Today, Marcellus Shale companies are proposing 1,280-acre units on which they can potentially drill dozens of wells on less than a single five acre pad.” Sit down and listen up, DRBC. You may actually learn something here.

Of course, despite a high-profile EPA study that confirms the safety of fracturing technology, and more than 60 years of history and experience backing those findings up, DRBC finds itself today under a good bit of pressure from the naysayers as well. Their demand? DRBC must conduct a “cumulative” (read: multi-year) examination of the Marcellus before even thinking about issuing anything close to a permit. A letter sent to the Commission this week by Congressman Maurice Hinchey, a reflexive opponent of shale in particular and non-subsidized energy in general, makes this point abundantly clear:

I am writing to express my concerns regarding the Delaware River Basin Commission’s proposed regulations for natural gas exploration and production in the Delaware River Basin. … [I]t is difficult to understand how the DRBC can consider the release of gas drilling regulations without a comprehensive assessment of the possible impacts in the Delaware River Basin.

Delay, deny, and fight ‘til it dies — it’s strategy that’s as old as time itself. You know how it goes: An extra study here, an extended comment period there, a request for injunction if all else fails — anything to save opponents of affordable, job-creating energy from being put in the uncomfortable position of having to defend that proposition honestly, directly and on its own merits.

But good luck trying to bleed the air out of the tires on the NWPOA, fellas. These guys won’t be denied, and if Scott McConnell’s Times-Tribune article today is any indication, they won’t be ignored either. To wit:

Economic development organizations and landowner groups in Wayne County issued a stinging criticism Thursday against the Delaware River Basin Commission for enacting a moratorium on natural gas drilling and causing a deep negative economic impact by effectively halting development. … “We want to get the debate started and put our position out,” said Peter Wynne, spokesman, Northern Wayne Property Owners Alliance.

It’s never been bad advice to come loaded for bear when visiting Wayne Co, Pa. But don’t expect to find any bull.


Encana Oil & Gas discusses natural gas drilling at chamber breakfast

Published: August 26, 2010

WILKES-BARRE – Encana Oil & Gas continues its quest for natural gas.

The company remains in an exploratory mode as it drills two natural gas wells in Fairmount and Lake townships, said company Vice President Don McClure.

“It’s very dependent on what we find in those two wells as to what our next steps are going to be,” Mr. McClure said.

Mr. McClure and Brian Grove, senior director of corporate development for Chesapeake Energy Corp.’s Eastern Division, spoke about the impacts of drilling natural gas wells to more than 100 business leaders who attended the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce’s CEO-to-CEO networking breakfast Wednesday at the Westmoreland Club.

Earlier this month, the Luzerne County Zoning Hearing Board granted Encana Oil & Gas conditional use to drill 10 more wells in Fairmount and Lake townships. Mr. McClure says the company is “being very conservative” with the drilling process.

“We’re only going to drill a couple wells and we’ll evaluate what they’re going to produce,” Mr. McClure said.

The company drills wells simultaneously to be efficient and reduce community impact, Mr. McClure said. The potential for water pollution are among the concerns arising from the increased drilling. Yet, Mr. McClure said he sees natural-gas drilling as a “tremendous opportunity” that could reduce dependence on Middle East oil from about 44 percent to 10 percent by increasing natural gas production.

“That’s substantial,” Mr. McClure said. “That’s the kind of impact that Marcellus Shale can have.”

Showing the company’s track record in the United States and Canada on a slide presentation, Mr. McClure said the company takes safety of people and the environment very seriously. As the second largest natural gas producer in North America, he said Encana’s goal is not to be the biggest but the “best we can possibly be.”

“We’re always pursuing a higher safety standard,” he said.

Both Mr. McClure and Mr. Grove touted benefits of natural gas drilling, which they said will be an economic development engine for job growth.

When asked how many jobs could be created as a result of Marcellus Shale, Mr. McClure said studies show for every one percent increase in natural gas production across North America, that correlates to 20,000 to 30,000 jobs.

More than 350,000 oil and gas wells have been drilled in Pennsylvania since the first commercial oil well was developed in 1859, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.

When asked what the biggest misconception of drilling is, Mr. Grove was quick to respond, “Hydraulic fracturing.” Fears about hydraulic fracturing, or the process used in wells that results in fractures in rocks, have been driven by a “lack of knowledge,” he said.

Contact the writer:

View article here.

Copyright:  The Scranton Times

Hess could be first to successfully tap Marcellus Shale in Wayne County

By Steve McConnell (Staff Writer)
Published: August 16, 2010

Although a natural gas drilling ban is in effect for much of Wayne County, one company is lining up permits for what may become the county’s first producing wells – in a small area just a hop across the Delaware River watershed boundary.

Hess Corp. has natural gas development permits either pending or recently approved for at least six hydraulically fractured Marcellus Shale wells along the county’s far northwestern border, according to state Department of Environmental Protection and Susquehanna River Basin Commission records.

Nearly all of the county lies within the Delaware River watershed, a vast 13,539-square-mile area that drains into the Delaware River. But this sliver in its far northern reaches is in the Susquehanna River watershed. There, the presiding Susquehanna River Basin Commission has granted hundreds of water-use permits to the burgeoning industry centered regionally in Susquehanna and Bradford counties.

Hess, which has leased at least 100,000 acres in northern Wayne County in a joint-development partnership with Newfield Exploration Co., had received regulatory approval from both the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and DEP for three Marcellus Shale wells in the Susquehanna watershed as of Saturday, according to a record review.

The permits were issued in late June and July. The pending and approved wells are concentrated in an area that encompasses Scott and Preston townships and Starrucca. The company will be “drilling and hydraulically stimulating one or more horizontal natural gas wells,” according to each permit application.

“An accounting of how (the companies) are going to use the water” is made before the commission decides to issue a permit, Susquehanna commission spokeswoman Susan Obleski said.

Efforts to reach officials with the New York City-based Hess Corp. were unsuccessful.

Drilling in Wayne County’s portion of the Delaware River watershed is a different story.

The Delaware River Basin Commission recently enacted a moratorium on the drilling of producing natural gas wells, which may be in effect for at least six months to a year. Meanwhile, Wayne County does not have a single producing well, nor has it seen any wells hydraulically fractured.

The only natural gas company that has attempted to hydraulically fracture a Marcellus Shale natural gas well in Wayne County, Lafayette, La.-based Stone Energy Corp., was issued a stop-work order in the summer of 2008 for its partially completed well in Clinton Twp. because it lacked a permit from the Delaware River Basin commission.

The Delaware River commission, a federal-state environmental regulatory agency charged with protecting the environmental integrity of the watershed, has stringent jurisdiction over the watershed and over natural gas drilling operations there.

It has placed a blanket moratorium on natural gas drilling until it develops its own industry regulations which are expected to exceed some DEP enforced laws.

“(Delaware) River Basin Commission consideration of natural gas production projects will occur after new … regulations are adopted,” said spokesman Clarke Rupert.

Mr. Rupert said draft regulations are expected to be published by the end of the summer. They will be followed by a series of public meetings and comment periods prior to final approval by commission vote.

“I expect those draft regulations will include provisions relating to the accounting of water movement since we would want to know the source of water to be used to support natural gas development and extraction activities in the basin,” Mr. Rupert said.

Meanwhile, the Delaware River commission is allowing 10 natural gas exploratory wells to go forward in Wayne County. They will not be hydraulically fractured, produce gas, or require much water. Hess Corp. and Newfield Exploration Co. received approvals for these wells from DEP prior to the June 14 moratorium.

Contact the writer:

View article here.

Copyright:  The Scranton Times

DEP secretary blasts back after N.Y. senators attack Pa. drilling

Published: August 6, 2010

By Laura Legere

Staff Writer

When the New York State Senate passed a nine-month moratorium on a crucial natural gas drilling technique late Tuesday, legislators there held up Pennsylvania, state regulators and a small Susquehanna County community as models for how not to drill for gas in the Marcellus Shale.

The senators’ criticism raised the ire of Pennsylvania Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger, who defended the state’s environmental regulations on Thursday and criticized New York for riding the moral “high horse while consuming Pennsylvania gas.”

“If they are so ashamed of what’s gone on here perhaps they should stop buying Pennsylvania gas,” Hanger said.

The sponsor of the New York legislation barring hydraulic fracking, Senator Antoine Thompson, twice visited Dimock Township, in Susquehanna County, and Bradford County in the last eight months to learn from citizens and gas companies about the positive and negative effects of drilling – experiences he cited when he introduced the bill for a vote.

“I think because the state of Pennsylvania was so thirsty to get this development opportunity they did not have enough infrastructure in place, making sure they were inspecting the wells properly, making sure that landowners were protected,” Thompson, D-Buffalo, said Tuesday night.

Despite his opposition to the moratorium, New York State Senator Tom Libous, R-Binghamton, spoke even more critically of Pennsylvania.

“Shame on the state of Pennsylvania,” Libous said. “Shame on their Department of Environmental Protection … because they screwed up badly. They didn’t keep an eye on those who were drilling. They didn’t keep an eye on environmental factors on behalf of the citizens of that state.”

Hanger agreed the experience in Dimock was “unacceptable” – the department found that faulty Cabot Oil and Gas Corp. natural gas wells caused methane to contaminate residents’ drinking water there. But he described two years of work the department has dedicated to strengthening Pennsylvania’s drilling standards and enforcement, including doubling the size of its gas enforcement staff while “New York has added nobody.”

“If New York demands to have no impacts from drilling, then they better have a moratorium that extends not just through May 2011, but forever,” he said. “You cannot have drilling, even done well, and get zero impact.”

When companies have “screwed up, like Cabot screwed up in Dimock,” he said, “we’ve come down on them very, very hard.”

Marcellus Shale drilling has been on hold in New York since 2008 when the state’s environmental regulatory agency began reviewing the environmental impact of the deep well drilling and updating its permitting requirements. That review is expected to be completed later this year.

When asked if he wished he had the opportunity to watch a neighboring state learn through trial and error – as the New York State Senate’s vote positions the Empire State to continue to do – Hanger said, “There are pluses and minuses to each state’s approach.”

View article here.

Copyright:  The Citizens Voice 

County approves new wells

By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer)
Published: August 4, 2010

WILKES-BARRE – The Luzerne County Zoning Hearing Board on Tuesday night approved new natural gas wells and a facility for processing the gas, but added safety conditions.

Zoning hearing board members William Harris, Anthony Palischak and Chairman Lawrence Newman unanimously granted Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc. conditional use to drill five natural gas wells in an agricultural zone on the 4-P Realty property on Loyalville Road in Lake Township, as well as a natural gas processing facility that would include a compressor station and a radio tower.

Among the conditions the board imposed, Encana will have to determine whether the county’s emergency responders will be able to handle problems at the site, and to draw up a contingency plan to share with all concerned.

Encana will have to mitigate noise, light and dust at the site, as well as provide a traffic control plan, bond all county and municipal roads, and consider safety measures for school buses, such as having flagmen at bus stops.

The board also granted conditional approval on Encana’s request to drill three wells on the Kent North site at 208 State Route 118 in Fairmount Township, and two wells on the Kent South site at 27 State Route 487 in Fairmount Township.

The commissioners’ meeting room at the courthouse was jammed with people, many of whom expressed opposition to natural gas drilling.

Zoning hearing board Solicitor Stephen A. Menn repeatedly stressed that the state Oil and Gas Act does not allow local officials to regulate most aspects of natural gas well drilling, including how it is done and water use and protection.

“In what ways has the Oil and Gas Act tied your hands?” Factoryville resident Patrick Walker asked.

“Health, safety and welfare issues,” Menn said.

Like with methadone clinics and adult entertainment, zoning cannot exclude natural gas drilling, according to Menn.

“Drilling is a legal use. You have to put it somewhere,” Menn said.

The place people should seek change is Harrisburg, in laws passed by the General Assembly.

“I think it is an absolute horror, I think this is a version of fascism, that this power has been taken away from you,” Walker said.

Several residents questioned safety issues, such as the 6,800 additional trucks on the road throughout the well drilling process.

Lake-Lehman Transportation Coordinator Sandy Dobrowolski, speaking on her own behalf, expressed concern about the school buses being on the roads at the same time as the heavy traffic at the site.

Paul Ungvarsky, who lives on Loyalville Road about a mile from the 4-P property, asked if something could be done to ensure trucks don’t speed on the road. Encana Community Relations Adviser Wendy Wiedenbeck said it seemed like a reasonable request.

Ungvarsky also wanted to know what would happen if a property isn’t leased. He said his isn’t.

“If it’s unleased, we cannot drill under it,” Encana Operations Engineer Joel Fox said.

Linster added that Encana has “quite a bit of room to work with” on the 4-P site.

Mike Patrician of Clarks Summit, one of the 4-P property owners, spoke on Encana’s behalf, saying he had talked to five different companies at length about leasing.

“People are not all the same, gas companies are not all the same,” he said. “Encana has a stellar reputation in the industry.”

Gary Ide, who has leased his Lehman Township property, also defended Encana, stating that leaseholders were “extraordinarily impressed” with the company.

But Gene Stilp of Dauphin County, in referencing Patrician’s comment, said: “People are different, companies are different – frack water is pretty much the same.” , 570-821-2072

View article here.

Copyright:  The Citizens Voice 

Drillers, residents keep eye on Harveys Lake

By Elizabeth Skrapits (Staff Writer)
Published: July 26, 2010

HARVEYS LAKE – The natural gas company planning two exploratory natural gas wells in Noxen is steering clear of nearby Harveys Lake.

“Carrizo has no intention of drilling under Harveys Lake or anywhere near Harveys Lake,” Carrizo Marcellus LLC spokesman Phillip Corey said. “Our first well, the closest point to the lake as the crow flies, is almost 3 miles away.”

The company leased more than 3,000 acres of Sterling Farms, property belonging to the Sordoni family. While most of the property is in Noxen Township, some is in Harveys Lake Borough, he said. However, the company does not have rights to drill under Harveys Lake and doesn’t want to, anyway, Corey said.

“You can’t just go out there to drop a hole wherever you please,” he said.

Harveys Lake resident Guy Giordano, who is vocal about keeping contaminants out of the lake, said it’s good news that Carrizo is not drilling in the borough – but it’s still a little too close for him.

“That still doesn’t give me a lot of comfort. Thirty miles, yeah, but 3 miles, I’m not so sure,” he said.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking,” involves blasting millions of gallons of chemical-treated water thousands of feet underground to break up the shale and release the natural gas.

The fact that some of these chemicals are not disclosed bothers Giordano.

“Why can’t they use something non-toxic?” he asked. “I can’t believe the government would let anyone put anything in the ground that’s secret.”

State law allows natural gas companies to drill up to 100 feet away from a water source. State Rep. Karen Boback, R-Harveys Lake, wants to expand the buffer to 2,500 feet away from drinking water sources, as well as lakes and other bodies of water that are governed by boroughs or second-class townships. She also wants to prohibit drilling beneath them.

Boback has also signed on as a co-sponsor to state Rep. Phyllis Mundy’s bill calling for a one-year moratorium on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.

Corey said Carrizo will test the drinking water of residents around the drilling site, as required in the lease, which also calls for staying at least 500 feet away from any structure or water source.

He said Carrizo has not decided which direction, if at all, to drill horizontally. The company might just stick with a vertical well to see what’s there, he said.

“We’re going to play this very conservatively,” Corey said.

Giordano stressed that he does not oppose natural gas drilling.

“I’m glad these people got the money for these drilling leases, God bless ‘em. They deserve it,” he said. “But I wish they didn’t have to drill. If it’s rural, it’s OK, the risk is not that great. But when you’re talking about a densely populated area, it’s not worth it. I don’t see how they can take the risk.”

Ceasetown connection

Giordano pulled his minivan to the side of the road to get a better look at the Ceasetown Dam, slightly misty in the summer rain and surrounded by lush green foliage.

This is one of the main reasons he worries about Harveys Lake becoming contaminated.

“A few years ago I had a sample of lake water tested at the Kirby Health Center,” Giordano confessed. “It passed as drinking water.”

Harveys Lake is the source of Harveys Creek. Pennsylvania American Water Co. spokesman Terry Maenza said the company uses Harveys Creek as a backup water supply for the Ceasetown Reservoir. It isn’t used often but it’s there for emergencies, he said.

The Ceasetown Reservoir in Lehman Township serves about 70,000 people in all or parts of Ashley, Courtdale, Conyngham Township, Edwardsville, Hanover Township, Hunlock Township, Larksville, Nanticoke, Newport Township, Plymouth, Plymouth Township, Pringle, Salem Township, Shickshinny, Wilkes-Barre and Wilkes-Barre Township.

“We have done some sampling from Harveys Creek to get some baseline data, so we have that information on file if and when any drilling does take place in the future,” Maenza said.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission, which regulates large water withdrawals from sources within the river basin, has not issued permits for any natural gas companies to take water from anywhere in Luzerne County, including the Ceasetown or Huntsville reservoirs.

Besides permits from the commission, “There are other permits they would have to get through us before they could start taking our water,” Maenza said.

Last week, there were water tankers at the Huntsville Reservoir, but they were removing sludge, Maenza said. When the filters at the water treatment centers are backwashed, the sludge goes into a lagoon, he explained. About 95 percent of it is recycled, including for agricultural use, he said.

When it comes to natural gas drilling, Maenza said Pennsylvania American Water officials are being vigilant, talking to the state Department of Environmental Protection about permits, keeping in constant touch with legislators including Boback, Mundy, and state Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township.

Maenza said the company has also been in contact with Encana Oil & Gas USA Inc., which started site preparations for a second exploratory natural gas well on Zosh Road in Lake Township on Wednesday, the same day Encana began drilling its first well in Fairmount Township.

“Nobody’s more concerned than us,” Maenza said. “This is our business. Water quality is what we rely on. We don’t want anything to put our water supply in jeopardy.” , 570-821-2072

View article here.

Copyright:  The Citizens Voice

Floods, Famines, Earthquakes and the DRBC

Landowners, communities challenge Delaware River Basin Commission to explain rationale, authority behind denying opportunity of the Marcellus to Northeast PA

Translated literally from French it means “superior force,” but translated practically into American law, the term force majeure is a clause used by parties that encounter a situation so severe that it’s actually designated as an “Act of God” by the courts. Floods, famines, earthquakes, volcanoes – these are the kinds of events that trigger the rare invocation of the clause, allowing all parties involved in a contract to shield themselves of obligation in light of the extraordinary and unforeseen events that transpired after it was signed.

Actually, there’s one other event that has historically fallen under the rubric of force majeure: acts of war. Unfortunately, in the case of the West Trenton, N.J.-based Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC), that’s precisely the action that was taken against landowners in eastern Pennsylvania last month, with the Commission instituting a de-facto, back-door moratorium on all activities within its sprawling jurisdiction even tangentially related to the development of clean-burning natural gas from the Marcellus Shale.

The upshot? This description comes from the June 30 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Two natural gas drilling companies have suspended most of their leases to develop Marcellus Shale wells in northeastern Pennsylvania after the Delaware River Basin Commission’s decision to ban drilling in the river’s watershed. … declar[ing] a force majeurea situation beyond their control – because of the DRBC’s June 14 decision to halt all drilling until it has adopted comprehensive regulations governing Marcellus Shale activity.

Of course, with potentially thousands of jobs at stake in the area – and millions of dollars in much-needed payments to landowners and state and local governments – folks who actually live and work in the Northeast PA counties affected by the DRBC promulgation aren’t exactly taking the decision lying down.

Case in point: Later today, the DRBC will hold a regularly scheduled hearing on a whole slate of issues related to regional water use and management, including a draft water withdrawal request from an energy operator in the area. Among the folks expected to attend? A busload of landowners from the Northern Wayne Property Owners Association (NWPOA), and from the information we’ve been able to glean from its website, the group is expecting a significant showing among residents in the area concerned by the implications of DRBC’s historic overreach on natural gas. To wit:

The Bus for the DRBC meeting in Trenton NJ on WED, July 14th 2010 will leave at 9:00 am from the middle school parking lot.  That is the parking lot up behind the Honesdale High School and Middle School up on Terrace Street. … Please try to send a representative from your family if you can’t make it yourself. … We must speak up and encourage DRBC to get meaningful prudent regulations in place instead of all these stall tacticswhich get us nowhere.

Back in June, the Marcellus Shale Coalition released an issue alert on the DRBC moratorium decision, wondering aloud if the modern-day DRBC would have let George Washington cross the Delaware without first initiating a years-long review procedure aimed at stalling the process and ultimately executing a pocket-veto of the entire enterprise. Needless to say, the denial of energy and mineral rights to landowners across the border in Pennsylvania wasn’t exactly what the creators of DRBC had in mind 50 years ago when the commission was created.

Earlier this week, the MSC expanded on its previously stated objections to the DRBC moratorium in a letter sent to Commission director Carol Collier. You see, in extending its initial ban to include a moratorium on doing even the most basic things to test the future viability of natural gas wells in the affected counties, the Commission cited “the risk to water resources” as the reason for pulling the plug on exploratory work in the area. But as MSC president and executive director Kathryn Klaber makes plain in her letter to DRBC this week, no water would be put at risk under such an approach – and very little of it will need to be withdrawn from surface areas under DRBC jurisdiction:

Exploratory wells are used to assess the scope of a resource available for potential recovery. These wells are limited in number and do not have a substantial effect on the water resources of the Basin – the drilling of these wells does not use a high volume of water, does not generate a significant volume of wastewater, and is subject to stringent state standards applicable to well drilling and surface disturbance. In no comparable circumstance has the Commission sought to assert its review and approval jurisdiction.

Of course, if DRBC’s review and approval of permits in this context is considered appropriate, then “it likewise would be appropriate for the development of a multitude of projects over which the Commission, appropriately, has not sought to assert jurisdiction, such as malls, hotels, restaurants, and residential subdivisions,” according to the letter from MSC.

So why is natural gas so different? That question, unfortunately, is not one that DRBC has answered with any degree of specificity just yet –content instead to simply assert its primacy over the matter and issue sweeping, multi-state declarations with significant implications for the clean-energy future of Pennsylvania and the economic security of those who live here. Hopefully, with the help of groups like NWPOA, the Commission will soon find itself in a position to better understand that the actions it makes from West Trenton, N.J. have real-world consequences for residents in the Commonwealth.