Wednesday, May 13, 2009

USGS report drills into Marcellus Shale concerns

The "gold-rush" pace set by energy companies purchasing property rights and drilling for natural gas in areas of Pennsylvania New York atop the Marcellus Shale formation slowed when the economy hit the brakes.

Since the drilling fever broke, more attention has been paid to the potential environmental consequences of the high-pressure drilling methods used to extract natural gas from underground layers of shale.

A new fact sheet published by The United States Geological Survey addresses what many consider to be the number one environmental challenge facing the development of the Marcellus Shale - water supply protection.

It identifies the three important concerns related to Marcellus Shale gas production as:

• supplying water for well construction without impacting local water resources,

• avoiding degradation of small watersheds and streams as substantial amounts of heavy equipment and supplies are moved around on rural roads, and

• determining the proper methods for the safe disposal of the large quantities of potentially contaminated fluids recovered from the wells.

The document discusses each of the three concerns in some detail and concludes:

"While the technology of drilling directional boreholes, and the use of sophisticated hydraulic fracturing processes to extract gas resources from tight rock have improved over the past few decades, the knowledge of how this extraction might affect water resources has not kept pace. Agencies that manage and protect water resources could benefit from a better understanding of the impacts that drilling and stimulating Marcellus Shale wells might have on water supplies, and a clearer idea of the options for wastewater disposal."

(This article reprinted from the EnviroPolitics Blog:


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