Friday, May 20, 2011

It Is May 20th: Do We Know How Many Plants Stopped Discharging Drilling Wastewater?

When Secretary Krancer requested in April that all plants discharging drilling wastewater untreated for TDS to streams to stop by May 19th, there were no more than 16 plants and probably less doing so.

How many stopped?  My estimate is at least 10 of the 16 and possibly 14.  What do others know?

Hart Resource Technologies, a company that served the shallow drilling industry well before the first Marcellus well, continues to discharge but as reported by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review at lower volumes than prior to May 19th.  No details were immediately available.

The Johnstown Redevelopment Authority stated to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review that it was continuing to discharge but would stop in a few weeks.

Again, I am very interested in getting the details about how many plants stopped by May 19th, how many continue to discharge, and what are the volumes being discharged. 

Comments welcome.


  1. John,

    There are a LOT of people who are extremely upset with this decision, and the manner (read: attitude) in which Mr. Krancer has approached discussions with the "shallow well" companies that have been operating here in PA for decades and are active in the Marcellus. These companies are ill-suited to recycle their water due to their relatively small numbers of wells drilled. Without a viable alternative, this leaves us with very few good options on how to continue.

    While the bromide situation is obviously an issue, there are many other industries that are to blame much more so than Marcellus drillers, as I'm sure you can attest to with the bromide being high before Marcellus drilling even existed. I'm not denying that Marcellus discharge didn't add to the existing problem, but with most of the large companies moving to recycling, it's almost a non-issue.

    Furthermore the water tests by DEP, PAWC, etc. show that proper dilution and controls on how much is discharged per day removes any threats (bromides notwithstanding) to water quality and public health.

    While I absolutely agree that we need to be moving to a zero-discharge policy, I really wish the state would be willing to work with all companies to achieve that goal in a reasonable time frame, rather than issuing a blanket "request" to comply in a miniscule time frame or be forced to shut down operations until more effective water treatment technologies have been developed.

    To me, this seems like more like a publicity stunt than anything else to satiate those who would like to see the industry shut down as a whole. After all, what do the big companies care if the practice is banned if they're not doing it anymore? If most of the large drillers have dedicated themselves to going closed-loop, that by itself should remove the majority of the water being discharged.

    Mr. Walker spoke very eloquently at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Energy Forum which I attended (and very much enjoyed briefly conversing with you afterwards) about Range saving significant amounts of money by recycling. If Range can do it, so can the rest of the big boys and they most certainly will be.

    So, why the hard-line theatrics of a 30 day window to end the practice if it has one foot in the grave and has been proven to be of small environmental impact anyways? The only reason I can deduce is to take fodder away from those who are beating on Corbett for being in bed with the gas companies. If that is so, I'm very disappointed in the DEP for throwing us, the ones who have been here developing these fields for decades, under the bus to gain political favor.

    Mike Knapp
    Knapp Acquisitions & Production
    Kittanning, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania

  2. mike:

    Would you mind discussing further why recycling is not a good option for the shallow well industry? Range itself has shallow wells. A lot of them in Pennsylvania. Is it a matter of small companies not having the capital to recycle? But recycling should be a lower cost option. I would benefit from more of your thoughts.

  3. John,

    Sorry I didn't word that very well... A bunch of the larger companies that were very active in shallow well drilling before the shale gas revolution have all but abandoned shallow well drilling in favor of vertical Marcellus wells. Many are family owned companies that have been drilling for decades. To drill horizontally is to put a lot of eggs in one basket for companies this size, but the lower cost and scale of vertical drilling has proven to be economical as compared to the dying shallow well plays. These new water rules put these company's very existence in jeopardy.

    These producers have experimented with water recycling and on site treatment and the results have not been that great. Impoundments filling up with large amounts of rain water due to the slow treatment rates, dilution with fresh water at new fracks doesn't seem to be very efficient and is logistically difficult with the relatively small number of wells drilled.

    Verticals are not nearly as expensive as horizontals but they're still significantly more costly than shallow wells. They frack with about 800K gallons of water and return a LOT higher percentage as flow back (between 35-45%) as flowback water very quickly which can be close to as much as a horizontal. Water trucking/disposal costs are already one of the larger costs we deal with and a significant increase in the cost would be very burdensome.

    From what I understand the capacity at all of the disposal wells around have been bought up by large companies. I could elaborate further but I've already wrote half a novel and I don't want to clog up your blog. I'd be happy to go as in depth as you're interested to hear. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail

    Thanks for taking the time.