Archive for January, 2009

News: Gas Testing Shakes Ground


Centre Daily Times (State College, PA) – Friday, January 30, 2009
Author: Anne Danahy adanahy@centredaily.com

BURNSIDE TOWNSHIP — Recently, small sections of wooded state land in northern Centre County have been trembling. That shaking might have been unusual, but it wasn’t un expected. It was part of a natural gas company’s effort to pick the best place to drill.

“It’s like taking an MRI of the underground,” said Steven Anest, permit agent with Dawson Geophysical Co. A crew from Dawson’s Midland, Texas, headquarters has been conducting three-dimensional seismic testing on 22 square miles of state game land and forest for North Coast Energy, an Ohio subsidiary of Exco Resources Inc. The re sults are images of the underground as deep as 20,000 feet. That data will help North Coast narrow the field as it decides whether and where to tap into the millions of cubic feet of natural gas floating deep inside the ground. The area is part of the Marcellus Shale region, which stretches from New York to West Virginia. Dawson finished its work Monday, and crews have been collecting the equipment this week. The company’s seismic testing involved its 40-member crew laying 25 receiver lines across the snow-covered property, with what’s known as a geophone about every 10 feet. A pair of large trucks — buggy-mounted vibrator units — would make their way down paths near the receiver lines, stopping to send sound waves into the ground. That’s when the shaking happened. It’s also when the geophones collected the vibrations that were being reflected off the rocks underground. That information was sent through the cable lines to boxes that relayed it to the recorder. That recorder is stationed in a truck, with an observer to make sure everything in the operation runs smoothly. The reports will help North Coast engineers decide if and where to put new drill pads on land to which it holds the gas rights. “It’s a way to look without drilling,” said David Cox, North Coast manager of geosciences. Two wells the company drilled in the Snow Shoe area last year are already producing natural gas. Cox said that gas flows into a nearby Columbia Gas transmission pipeline. While the search continues, the price for natural gas has dropped. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the spot price average was $9.13 per 1,000 cubic feet in 2008 but was $5.99 per 1,000 cubic feet in December 2008. It is expected to drop to $5.78 per 1,000 cubic feet in 2009. According to the DOE, the economy, together with the growing domestic supply of natural gas, are factors in the drop in demand. “Exco-North Coast continues to map and we continue to permit wells,” Cox said. “The collapse of the natural gas price has certainly changed the picture, and of course we’re keeping an eye on any rules and regulation changes that may come from the (state) and the regulatory process involved in permitting wells in the Marcellus region.”


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Centre Daily Times (State College, PA) – Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Natural gas, trapped until now in a layer of shale a mile or more beneath the Earth’s surface, is going to make every landowner in central and northeastern Pennsylvania unfathomably wealthy and supply the nation’s energy needs for the 21st century and beyond. We’ll all get to star in our own reality-show versions of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” someone will write a bluegrass ballad about us, and we’ll become personal friends of Jed Clampett, T. Boone Pickens and other energy-corporation giants.

That, or something approaching it, is the hype from the energy industry and its advocates — academic experts who, it should be noted, double as paid consultants to the drilling companies — who envision a well behind every tree on the Mountaintop.

There are a few details, however. Actually, about 4 million of them. That’s how much water will be needed for the hydrofracturing process to free the gas from the rock. Per day. Per well?

Texas-based Anadarko Exploration and Production Co., which has leased about 300,000 acres in the Appalachian region, mostly in central Pennsylvania, has asked the Susquehanna River Basin Commission for permission to withdraw up to 4 million gallons of water “in any one day” from Centre, Clinton and Lycoming counties. Water would be drawn from Foster Joseph Sayers Lake, among other sources.

Anadarko is only one company interested in the riches below. That the commission has declared the region to be potentially groundwater stressed is apparently not a consideration. Nor are the chemicals and sand added to the water before, the mineral contaminants the water picks up during and the question of how to dispose of the water after the fracturing process.

Several groups are concerned, however, and they are sponsoring an educational forum, “The Marcellus Shale: How to Protect Our Watersheds,” on Wednesday in Clearfield to discuss the potential environmental impacts of the natural gas rush. Among the critical questions that need to be answered are these. Where will all the water come from? Where will it go? What will the region’s lakes, streams, wells and water table look like afterward?

Americans need a domestic energy supply. We also need clean water. Our obsession with the former — and the profit derived from it — must not cause us to ignore the latter.

Wednesday’s forum is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in the Clearfield County Multiservice Building on Leonard Street. Many questions must be answered before the natural gas is gone — and so are the drilling companies — and the region is left with none of the promised riches but all of the environmental damage.

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Centre Daily Times (State College, PA) – Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Author: Mike Joseph mjoseph@centredaily.com

Less than a week after streamlined regulations took effect, a natural gas driller gave notice Monday that it wants to withdraw up to 4 million gallons of water “in any day” from Centre and two other counties.

The water would be taken from two places in Centre County — from Foster Joseph Sayers Lake in Liberty Township and from Burnside Township, which is partially bounded by the West Branch Susquehanna River — and from four other sources in Clinton and Lycoming counties.

Texas-based Anadarko Exploration & Production Co. told the Susquehanna River Basin Commission that it needs the water for drilling and hydrofracturing natural gas wells, according to a public notice about its application.

The company has about 300,000 net acres under lease in the Appalachian region, mostly in central Pennsylvania, an Anadarko spokesman said.

Pennsylvania has a deep gas-bearing rock layer, the Marcellus Shale, that has a rich potential for natural gas production. It takes 1 million to 3 million gallons of water to “frac” a natural gas well, though procedures differ from region to region.

Anadarko spokesmen said it is still too early to estimate how frequently the company would want to withdraw up to 4 million gallons of water from the six sources.

They said the water-withdrawal application was filed Dec. 29 and would have been filed by year’s end regardless of the basin commission’s newly streamlined regulations.

The commission, the governing agency to protect and manage Susquehanna River water, adopted the new rules last month to simplify the application and approval process for a heavy load of natural gas industry requests to withdraw water from the basin.

The new regulations, which took effect Jan. 1, expand the type of sources the natural gas industry can use to include public water supplies and discharges from wastewater treatment plants.

Sayers Lake is a 1,730-acre U.S. Army Corps of Engineers flood-control impoundment on Bald Eagle Creek 15 miles northeast of State College. It is also the centerpiece of Bald Eagle State Park, which is run by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The lake water is drawn down each fall and winter to create enough room for high water in spring, and it is possible that Anadarko’s withdrawal could coincide with that practice.

“I’m sure we would probably be evaluating that,” basin commission spokeswoman Susan Obleski said Monday.

The DCNR plans a major improvement of the fish habitat at Bald Eagle State Park. Both DCNR and the Corps of Engineers said they had not known of Anadarko’s water-withdrawal application before Monday.

Four million gallons of water is about four-fifths of the amount the State College Borough Water Authority uses every day in the borough, Patton, Ferguson and Harris townships and part of College Township. If a 120-yard football field were turned into a big swimming pool, it would have to be dug 9 feet, 3 inches deep to hold 4 million gallons.

“It’s a lot of water — it’s something to be concerned about,” said Max Gill, executive director of the water authority. “When that water comes out of the ground, it’s contaminated. It has to be captured and disposed of. It can’t just be disposed back to the ground.”

Natural gas drillers add sand and chemicals to water before injecting it in a sort of sandblasting procedure thousands of feet into the ground. While there, the water picks up other chemicals such as magnesium chloride from deep salt formations.

“You inject it into the ground under very high pressure and that cracks the rock and then the sand keeps it open,” Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen said.

The Williamsport Sanitary Authority, which treats sewage, is experimenting with a process to help clean up such “frac water.”

“It’s a very expensive treatment because of the need to get it down to water quality standards,” said Walt Nicholson, the authority’s director of operations.

Retired Centre County Planning Director Bob Donaldson, now a leader in local water quality conservation organizations, said the application to use water for natural gas drilling illustrates the need for effective government oversight.

“These are concerns but they’re balanced by the demand for energy,” he said. “The concern is that they be properly reviewed and permitted.”


Comments or questions about Anadarko’s application can be submitted to Paula Ballaron, regulatory program director, Susquehanna River Basin Commission, 1721 N. Front St., Harrisburg, PA 17102- 2391; or by e-mail to pballaron@srbc.net.

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