EPA Releases Marcellus Drillers' Wastewater Plans [Citizens Voice, Wilkes-Barre, PA]
The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday released excerpts of responses from Pennsylvania's six most active Marcellus Shale drillers describing how they plan to deal with their wastewater instead of discharging it through conventional treatment plants.
In April, Pennsylvania regulators gave the drillers until May 19 to voluntarily stop taking the salty, chemical-laden waste fluids to 16 treatment plants that cannot remove all of the contaminants before discharging it into state waterways.
The state is still verifying compliance, but it appears that nearly all of the state's drillers satisfied the request, a state Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman said Wednesday.
"We know we've accomplished a dramatic sea change here, having gone from millions of gallons of shale gas extraction wastewater being delivered to the 16 plants in question to a handful of operators possibly delivering virtually none," spokeswoman Katherine Gresh said.
The documents released by the federal EPA indicate that the six companies with the most Marcellus Shale drilling permits intend to reuse, treat or dispose of their wastewater this year without relying on any of the plants that had been grandfathered into stricter state discharge regulations.
The information was submitted by Atlas Resources (now owned by Chevron), Talisman Energy, Range Resources, Cabot Oil and Gas, SWEPI and Chesapeake Energy. According to the reports:
n In a four-county core drilling area, Atlas intends to recycle 100 percent of its drilling, flowback and produce water by the end of 2011 using "Chevron's proprietary patent-pending water reuse process," the company said. Any water not reused will be sent to deep disposal wells in Ohio.
n Cabot plans to recycle all of its Marcellus wastewater in Pennsylvania using a contractor's mobile recycling equipment.
n Chesapeake plans to recycle about 90 percent of its Pennsylvania wastewater using filtration technology and dispose of about 10 percent of the waste in out-of-state injection wells.
n Range said it will continue its established recycling program and dispose of some fluids either in Ohio injection wells or through Eureka Resources - a Pennsylvania treatment plant that uses thermal distillation to meet state discharge standards. The company said it plans to recycle 99 percent of its flowback water and 50 percent of its produced water or brine.
n SWEPI said it plans to treat or recycle about 90 percent of its wastewater either at its well sites or "a permitted project site" in Tioga County. Disposal locations "have not been determined at this time," the company said.
n Talisman's goal is to recycle 100 percent of its wastewater and use "short term storage capacity" and disposal only when it cannot immediately reuse the waste in another well, the company said. If necessary, the wastewater is treated at TerrAqua Resource Management in Williamsport before it is reused.
The EPA released the answers to just one of the question it asked of the drillers on May 12. Along with their wastewater handling plans for 2011, the companies were told to give the agency information on all of their wells, the chemical analysis of their wastewater, their past and future waste disposal procedures and any spills of the waste over the last five years.
In a statement on its website, the agency said it is reviewing the information it has received from the companies and "after completing the review, will continue to make this information available as appropriate."
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