Does natural gas drilling impact our water?

Natural gas development from the Marcellus Shale is water-intensive, yet there are a host of regulations, safeguards and practices in place to ensure that our region’s water resources are effectively managed and protected. According to Penn State University researchers, Pa. “DEP requires an approved water management plan in connection with the gas well permit to cover the water sources used for fracturing each Marcellus shale gas well in the Commonwealth. A water management plan includes information about the sources of water to be used in the fracking process, expected impacts of withdrawals on water resources, and proof of approval by the appropriate river basin commission, among other items.”

Not only are water withdrawals and the overall management of produced/flowback water tightly regulated, so too are the standards in which wells are constructed to ensure groundwater is protected. Click here to view more information about these standards. Indeed, the entire natural gas development process – from Well Site Planning/Development to Site Restoration – is aggressively regulated by various governmental agencies. This MSC fact sheet provides an overview of this forward-leaning regulatory framework that ensures the protection of our water resources and our environment. And here are helpful resources from MSC member companies Chesapeake Energy and Range Resources specific to water use and management, as well as some additional water-related facts:

  • FACT: An analysis by The Associated Press of 2011 state data released Friday found that of the 10.1 million barrels of shale wastewater generated in the last half of 2011, about 97 percent was either recycled, sent to deep-injection wells, or sent to a treatment plant that doesn’t discharge into waterways. … After being promoted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s concerns, Pennsylvania sought a voluntary moratorium last May, asking Marcellus Shale drillers to cease bringing the drilling waste to plants that discharge into rivers. (Associated Press, 2/20/12)
  • Former PA DEP Secretary and PennFuture founder John Hanger: The volumes of drilling wastewater from shale wells nearly quadrupled in the first 6 months of 2011, when compared to the first 6 months of 2010. Of the 10.1 million barrels of wastewater produced in the first 6 months of 2011, about 97% was recycled or deep well injected, according to the Associated Press. (2/20/12)
  • FACT: PA DEP Secretary Michael Krancer: In addition to reducing the contaminants discharged to our streams, the new Chapter 95 rule will increase the use or recycled water, promote the development of alternative forms of disposal and perhaps promote the use of alternative sources of fracking fluid. (Congressional testimony, 5/31/12)
  • FACT: PA DEP Secretary Michael Krancer: “From what we can see today a dramatic sea change has occurred in Pennsylvania on this as we have virtually overnight gone from millions of gallons being delivered to those facilities and discharged to virtually none.” (U.S. House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee testimony, 11/16/11)
  • FACT: “DEP says Marcellus Shale drilling waste no longer being discharged into streams”: Pennsylvania has accomplished a “dramatic sea change” in its protection of water from pollution by drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale, according to the state’s top environmental regulator. Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer told officials in a meeting in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that drilling wastewater is no longer being discharged to rivers or streams in Pennsylvania without full treatment. … DEP spokeswoman Katy Gresh… confirmed that “We’ve gone from millions and millions of gallons being discharged to virtually none.” (Patriot-News, 6/3/11)
  • FACT: “Gas drillers recycling more water, using fewer chemicals”: Drillers plumbing the Marcellus Shale still use millions of gallons of water per well to bust up the deep subterranean rock strata and release the natural gas it contains, but more and more they’re reducing the amount of chemical additives used in hydraulic fracturing and recycling wastewater. … “The majority of companies are working toward reusing 100 percent of their flowback water for several reasons. Environmentally it makes sense, and economically it makes more sense, even though they have to treat some fairly significant dissolved solids,” Dave Yoxtheimer, hydrogeologist with Penn State University’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, said. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3/29/12)
  • FACT: What Independent Experts Are Saying About Marcellus Shale Water Management: “By recycling the wastewater, they can reduce their transportation costs and the overall environmental footprint of the industry”; “There’s nothing in flowback water that’s particularly difficult for an environmental engineer to manage”; “The DEP analyses are determining that the average daily consumption in the shale industry is ‘no greater than one of our power plants’” (3/23/11)