Water is a key component of the hydraulic fracturing and completions process, which creates paper-thin fractures in dense unconventional shale formations allowing the flow of hydrocarbons from the formation and into the well bore. A water management plan, including the identification of a proposed water withdrawal source, is required by state environmental regulators for all proposed natural gas wells as part of the permitting process.

Prior to permitting a well, state regulators from the PA DEP review the earth disturbance designs, drilling, construction and water management plans and visit the well location. A series of environmental safeguards are required – such as erosion and sedimentation controls, fugitive dust controls, multiple layers of well casing and cement to protect potable water aquifers and water wells – for every natural gas well. Taken together, all of these controls protect surface and ground water resources.

Water used in the completions process is either transported by truck from a designated withdrawal point or conveyed through a water pipeline to a well location. Flowback water, which is the water that returns to the surface during the hydraulic fracturing process, is managed in accordance with state and federal regulations. In the Appalachian Basin, flowback is almost entirely recycled and reused to hydraulically fracture new wells. A small percentage of this flowback water is disposed of in United States EPA-regulated underground injection wells or treated to drinking water standards at state permitted facilities.

MSC member companies have pioneered large-scale water recycling technologies in just the past few years. It’s an accomplishment that industry operators are proud of and one that is good for both the environment and the industry.