U.S. GAO – Energy-Water Nexus: Information on the Quantity, Quality, and Management of Water Produced during Oil and Gas Production

U.S. GAO – Energy-Water Nexus: Information on the Quantity, Quality, and Management of Water Produced during Oil and Gas Production.

ENERGY-WATER NEXUS Information on the Quantity, Quality, and Management of Water Produced during Oil and Gas Production

ENERGY-WATER NEXUS
Information on the Quantity, Quality, and Management of Water Produced during Oil and Gas ProductionGovernment Accountability Office, Jan 2012.

 

587522.pdf (application/pdf Object).

Pennsylvania allows dumping of tainted waters from hydrofracking into drinking water streams | syracuse.com

Pennsylvania allows dumping of tainted waters from hydrofracking into drinking water streams | syracuse.com. Jan. 4, 2011

Pennsylvania alone allows waterways to serve as primary disposal sites for fracking waste
1/4/2011
Observer-Reporter

By David B. Caruso
The Associated Press
Monday, January 3, 2011

The natural gas boom gripping parts of the U.S. has a nasty byproduct: wastewater so salty, and so polluted with metals like barium and strontium, most states require drillers to get rid of the stuff by injecting it down shafts thousands of feet deep.
Not in Pennsylvania, one of the states at the center of the gas rush.

There, the liquid that gushes from gas wells is only partially treated for substances that could be environmentally harmful, then dumped into rivers and streams from which communities get their drinking water.

In the two years since the frenzy of activity began in the vast underground rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale, Pennsylvania has been the only state allowing waterways to serve as the primary disposal place for the huge amounts of wastewater produced by a drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

State regulators, initially caught flat-footed, tightened the rules this year for any new water treatment plants, but allowed any existing operations to continue discharging water into rivers.

At least 3.6 million barrels of the waste were sent to treatment plants that empty into rivers during the 12 months ending June 30, according to state records. That is enough to cover a square mile with more than 81/2 inches of brine.

Researchers are still trying to figure out whether Pennsylvania’s river discharges, at their current levels, are dangerous to humans or wildlife. Several studies are under way, some under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency.

State officials, energy companies and the operators of treatment plants insist that with the right safeguards in place, the practice poses little or no risk to the environment or to the hundreds of thousands of people, especially in Western Pennsylvania, who rely on those rivers for drinking water.

But an Associated Press review found that Pennsylvania’s efforts to minimize, control and track wastewater discharges have sometimes failed.

For example:

• Of the roughly 6 million barrels of well liquids produced in a 12-month period examined by The AP, the state couldn’t account for the disposal method for 1.28 million barrels, about a fifth of the total, due to a weakness in its reporting system and incomplete filings by some energy companies.

• Some public water utilities that sit downstream from big gas wastewater treatment plants have struggled to stay under the federal maximum for contaminants known as trihalomethanes, which can cause cancer if swallowed over a long period.

• Regulations that should have kept drilling wastewater out of the important Delaware River Basin, the water supply for 15 million people in four states, were circumvented for many months.

In 2009 and part of 2010, energy company Cabot Oil & Gas trucked more than 44,000 barrels of well wastewater to a treatment facility in Hatfield Township, a Philadelphia suburb. Those liquids were then discharged through the town sewage plant into the Neshaminy Creek, which winds through Bucks and Montgomery counties on its way to the Delaware River.

Regulators put a stop to the practice in June, but the more than 300,000 residents of the 17 municipalities that get water from the creek or use it for recreation were never informed that numerous public pronouncements that the watershed was free of gas waste had been wrong.

“This is an outrage,” said Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an environmental group. “This is indicative of the lack of adequate oversight.”

The situation in Pennsylvania is also being watched carefully by regulators in other states, some of which have begun allowing some river discharges. New York also sits over the Marcellus Shale, but Gov. David Paterson has slapped a moratorium on high-volume fracking while environmental regulations are drafted. Read more of this post

Open Valve Leaks 13,000 gallons of Fracking Waste in Lycoming County PA

Read in conjunction with the Guiding Principles of the Marcellus Shale Coalition representing the companies drilling in the Marcellus region.

November 24, 2010

Exxon Mobil updates info on polluting spill from XTO gas well siteExxon Mobil Corp. said today that 4,200 gallons of “produced water” were spilled from a Pennsylvania natural gas well site of company subsidiary XTO Energy in Pennsylvania as a result of a valve being left open on a storage tank. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said the dirty water polluted a nearby stream and a spring.Rachael Moore, a spokeswoman for Irving-based Exxon Mobil, said in an e-mail response to Star-Telegram questions that Fort Worth-based XTO “is taking steps to avoid this…happening again in the future.”Produced water is coughed up from deep underground along with gas produced from a well. The spill was of produced water, rather than from “hydraulic fracturing fluid” used in fracturing wells, as stated in a prior DEP news release, Moore said. Produced water is typically polluted, salty water that isn’t safe to drink and may contain potentially toxic chemicals and metals.DEP spokesman Daniel Spadoni told the Star-Telegram today that XTO originally estimated the spill at more than 13,000 gallons and also previously told the agency that the spilled water was “frack flowback fluid,” the mix of water, sand and chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing of wells.

Moore said XTO determined the spill was 4,200 gallons after “a thorough review of inventory records” and that the 13,000-plus figure was an earlier “worst-case estimate” that proved inaccurate.

Spadoni said XTO probably will be sent a notice early next week, outlining what regulations it violated and the potential penalties.

The spill occurred at XTO’s “Marquardt site” in Lycoming County in north central Pennsylvania (not southwest Pennsylvania, as the Barnett Shale Blog said in a prior post).

–Jack Z. Smith

See the full story in Thursday’s Star-Telegram.

Exxon Subsidiary Investigated for 13,000 Gallon Fracking Fluid Spill Into Pennsylvania Waterways
Read More: Dick Cheney , Dimock , Epa , Exxon Mobil , Fracking , Fracking Fluid , Halliburton Loophole , Hydraulic Fracturing , Natural Gas , PA DEP , Pennsylvania , Water Contamination , Xto Energy , Green News
XTO Energy, a subsidiary of Exxon Mobil, is under investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) after a 13,000 gallon hydraulic fracturing fluid spill at XTO Energy’s natural gas drilling site in Penn Township, Lycoming County, PA.

The spill was first discovered last week by a DEP inspector who found a valve had been left open on a 21,000-gallon fracking fluid tank, discharging fluid off the well pad into local waterways, threatening a nearby cattle herd that had to be fenced off from the contaminated pasture.  Exxon/XTO has not provided an explanation on why the valve was left open.

“This spill was initially estimated at more than 13,000 gallons by the company and has polluted an unnamed tributary to Sugar Run and a spring,” said DEP Northcentral Regional Director Nels Taber. “There are also two private drinking water wells in the vicinity that will be sampled for possible impacts.”

DEP’s sampling confirmed elevated levels of conductivity and salinity in the spring and unnamed tributary, clear indications that the fracking fluid was present in the waterways.

Exxon paid $30 billion in its June 2010 merger with Texas-based XTO Energy, making Exxon/XTO the largest natural gas producer in the United States, with extensive holdings of “unconventional resources” throughout the Marcellus Shale and elsewhere.

Concerns over natural gas fracking are widespread through the Marcellus Shale region and in several Western U.S. states where a boom in natural gas development is underway thanks to the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique.  Residents living near fracking operations are on the front lines as their drinking water supplies and health are threatened by the fracking process, which involves injecting a mixture of sand, water and undisclosed toxic chemicals into the shale rock to free up the trapped gas.

Pennsylvania is no stranger to fracking disasters, notably the high-profile contamination in the town of Dimock, where resident Norma Fiorentino’s water well famously blew up on New Year’s Day 2009, and at least 15 families have had their drinking water ruined by fracking, leading to illness, livestock deaths and other maladies.

Last week, the Pittsburgh City Council banned natural gas fracking within city limits due to concerns over the threat of water contamination and public health risks.

But Pennsylvania is hardly alone in the fracking fight. Fracking operations have contaminated water supplies across America from New York, to Wyoming, to New Mexico, to Ohio, to Virginia, to Arkansas, to Colorado and beyond.
The Environmental Protection Agency currently has no power to regulate hydraulic fracturing thanks to the Halliburton Loophole inserted into the 2005 enegy bill at the behest of former Vice President Dick Cheney, the former head of Halliburton.

Mounting evidence of the fracking threat nationwide has yet to convince lawmakers to close the loophole and hold the natural gas industry accountable for its fracking messes. As the New York Times asked in a November 2009 editorial, “if hydraulic fracturing is as safe as the industry says it is, why should it fear regulation?”
Follow Brendan DeMelle on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bdemelle