This Article reprinted from The Daily Review, Towanda, PA
was written by JAMES LOEWENSTEIN
Published: Saturday, May 2, 2009 3:14 AM EDTDUSHORE — Three exploratory wells are proposed to be drilled in Bradford County that could be used as injection wells, a Penn State Cooperative Extension agent said.
These wells, along with a few more proposed to be drilled in Sullivan County, will help determine if this section of the state is suitable for siting injection wells, Sullivan County Extension Agent Mark Madden said in a presentation he gave Friday in Dushore, which was titled “Natural Gas in Sullivan County: What to Expect.”
The geology may not be compatible in Pennsylvania for the widespread establishment of injection wells, which would be used to inject waste water from gas drilling underground for permanent storage, he told the 35 people who heard his presentation, which was given at the 2009 Sullivan County Extension Spring Breakfast at the Agricultural Resource Center in Dushore.
For many years, “it has been widely thought that there is not suitable geology in this state” to accommodate a large number of injection wells, although eight such wells do exist in Pennsylvania, he said.
However, there is now technology available that allows injection wells to be drilled more deeply than in the past, and there could be formations deep underground that would be very suitable for disposing of waste water from gas drilling, he said.
The exploratory wells in Bradford and Sullivan counties would be dug approximately 14,000 feet to the Oriskany sandstone formation, which is several thousand feet deeper than the Marcellus shale formation, he said.
After reaching the Oriskany foundation, the wells could produce natural gas, which would be extracted, he said. But if they don’t yield gas, the companies proposing the wells have said they may do testing “to see how much (fluid) they can take,” he said.
While the exploratory wells might be used as injection wells, each would require permits from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection before it could become operational, he said.
In an interview, Madden said that in Texas, one injection well is dug for every 100 gas wells.
If the geology in Pennsylvania is suitable for injection wells, there could be that number of injection wells dug locally, too, he said.
“A couple (of the exploratory wells) are proposed for the western part of Bradford County,” while one is proposed for the middle section of the county, he said.
Injection wells are one of the ways that gas companies are looking at disposing of waste water from hydraulic fracturing, which a process used to access the natural gas in the Marcellus shale.
The quality of natural gas that is produced from the Marcellus shale in this part of the state, including Bradford County, is “very good,” so it does not need to be processed through a treatment plant before it is shipped in a pipeline to market, he told those at the Sullivan County Extension breakfast.
“It is pipeline ready,” he said.
By contrast, in the southwestern part of Pennsylvania, where there has been a lot of drilling in the Marcellus shale, the gas must be processed by a treatment plant before it is sent to market, mainly to separate out some of the unwanted gas components, he said.
The reason why there has been a lot of drilling in the Marcellus shale in southwest Pennsylvania is that there is a large network of transmission lines in place there that had been built to transport gas from wells dug years ago, he said. So it has been feasible to extract the gas in that part of the state, even though gas companies have had to pay the additional cost of processing it, he said.
There are currently very few transmission lines in the eastern section of the Northern Tier of Pennsylvania, although a Tennessee Gas interstate pipeline does run west to east across the middle of Bradford County, he said.
One person at the breakfast asked if an extension of the Tennessee Gas pipeline would be installed in Sullivan County.
Madden said he did not know if such an extension would be created, but said there is a proposal to install a connection to the Tennessee Gas line that would travel through Terry Township, across Colley Township, and into the southern section of Sullivan County.
Some of the other points made by Madden are:
— While gas wells have not been dug yet in Sullivan County, there has been a lot of seismic testing in the area, including Sullivan County, to determine where drilling would be suitable, he said.
— One problem is that local government bodies don’t receive any of the tax revenue that is generated from gas drilling, even though they “bear the brunt of the road damage” and must provide public services related to the gas drilling operations, he said.
— A study done in Sublette County, Wyo., showed that the more gas drilling activity that occurred in that county, the higher the number of arrests.
— One use that may be made of the huge amounts of natural gas in the Marcellus shale is the construction of gas-fired power plants to produce electricity, he said.
— Madden also said he expected the local dairy industry to continue despite the advent of gas drilling, since the local area is within a day’s drive of a large part of the United States’ population, he said.
— The very high wages offered in the gas industry are expected to draw workers away from other employers, he said.
— On the positive side, the gas drilling “may lead to the revitalization of some rural communities,” he said.