Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CNX An Example of Drilling Company Discharging Zero/Less Wastewater Than Pre-Marcellus

I was speaking at a conference yesterday in Pittsburgh and shared the podium with Craig Neal from CNX.

CNX has been drilling gas wells in Pennsylvania for decades.  It has 9,000 shallow wells.  It also has Marcellus wells.

As of May, CNX no longer discharges any drilling wastewater from any of its shallow or Marcellus wells.  Congratulations to CNX and thank you.

The Marcellus development has put an end to a decades long practice of discharging drilling wastewater from shallow wells untreated for Total Dissolved Solids into Pennsylvania's rivers and streams.

And how many Pennsylvanians are aware of this major environmental improvement?


  1. The proof is in the details. What does CNX do with it's wastewater? No one really believes in practice that you can get truly 100% recycling frack fluid. There will be fluid that is created and must leave the site somehow, what are they doing with that?

    I also assume they're still leaving behind millions of gallons of frack fluid in the ground encased in the Infinite casings.

    I know shallow drillers who say that there are far far fewer shallow wells being dug these days, so it's not just because MS development brings an overall environmental improvement to PA (is that what you're saying?), but also the fact that MS development is shifting the gas industry so there are less shallow drillers around anymore.

    It's also the case that shallow well frack fluid is a different chemical make-up and volume as deep well frack fluid. I think one of the reasons people have been so worried about MS fracking is exactly because everyone knows that shallow frack fluid isn't always treated correctly, and so people look at MS frack fluid that is more harmful, and in enormously greater volumes, they want to see proof that NO frack fluid is going in streams. I just don't think it's enough to say that "we got a hold of the shallow-well situation," because shallow wells are decreasing in relevance, and we've just been told that 50% of PA is likely to be fracked in the next 50 years.

    I don't think that Pennsylvanians see this improvement as "major." It's an improvement, but there are still so many concerns that don't seem to be addressed, and likely won't be in Harrisburg this session. It would be major if the DEP had the cahones to require all companies to do what CNX claims. It would be major if Harrisburg had a change of heart, and decided to fully fund DEP, and accept all of their, and other, recommendations for improvments to the Oil and Gas Act...I'd call this the low-hanging fruit.

    I have some other headlines that could be major environmental improvements that would really move people:

    CNX signs contract with state to follow all best practices in MS drilling, exceeding both federal and state requirements.

    MSC advances cradle to grave online public tracking system for all fluids involved in MS fracking.

    MSC teams with water conservancies to launch state wide plan to coordinate with industry to constantly monitor and publicly report the cumulative impact of industry on health an well being.

    ExxonMobile, Royal Dutch Shell, and Chevron develop public health tracking system, and guarantees funding for 100 years.

    CNX announces 10 year plan to shift it's extraction focus from natural gas to renewable energy.

    Industries announce employee profit-sharing agreement.

    Shareholders cap salaries - mandate excess profits be invested in renewable energy development.

    MSC delivers progressive severance tax to legislature that exceeds revenue for all current bills under consideration - insists Corbett sign.

  2. your post is thoughtful and helpful. I hope people read it.

    I don't know specifically where CNX moves water after it cannot be used more. Generally, in terms of where does water finally go, after it is not recycled anymore, it goes 2 places:

    Deep Well Injection sites regulated by the EPA in Pa or outside Pa or to a plant like that operated by Eureka in Williamsport that can fully treat frac water, including for TDS.

    Having seen that the TDS loading from all the industrial sources of the Mon River in 2008 exceeded safe drinking water act requirements, I will hold with the adjective major to describe reaching a point where less TDS Pollution is coming from the drilling industry than prior to the first Marcellus well is a major improvement.

    Operating shallow wells produce water. Shallow wells were allowed prior to August 2010 new TDS rule and prior to May 2011 to discharge without Treatment for TDS.

    You agree it is an improvement. I call it a major improvement. We have substantial agreement.

    I do hope that higher drilling, environmental standards will prevail in gas drilling than was the case when the industry was out-of-sight and out-of-mind during the pre-marcellus era now that Marcellus has put such a spotlight on the industry.

    The rules across the board are much, much stronger.

    Some further changes are appropriate and you identified many of them as have others in and outside the drilling industry.

    Major progress is being made. More work remains.