A new study published by Duke University found that natural pathways in the Marcellus shale formation likely allows material to migrate into shallow drinking water aquifers.
The good news, a release from the university points out, is that the pathways are natural and not caused by the process of hydraulic fracturing. The bad news is that those pathways may allow toxic chemicals used in the fracking process to migrate into groundwater supplies via natural pathways.
The study challenges the industry assumption that layers of bedrock over the Marcellus formation contains material underneath. If fluid can migrate up to the surface, or just to groundwater sources, fears of water contamination from the fracturing process could be realized.
While no direct link between salinity and the amount of gas exploration in a region was found by the study, researchers did find "elevated levels of salinity with similar geochemistry to deep Marcellus brine in drinking water samples from three groundwater aquifers."
A new study being done by the Department of Energy may provide some of the first solid answers to a controversial question: Can gas drilling fluids migrate and pose a threat to drinking water?
A drilling company in southwestern Pennsylvania is giving researchers access to a commercial drilling site, said Richard Hammack, a spokesman for the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Pittsburgh.
The firm let scientists conduct baseline tests, allowed tracing elements to be added to hydraulic fracturing fluids and agreed to allow follow-up monitoring. That should let scientists see whether the drilling fluids move upwards or sideways from the Marcellus Shale, which is 8,100 feet deep at that spot.
‘‘It’s like the perfect laboratory,’’ Hammack said.
Hammack said he believes this is the first time such research has been done on a commercial gas well.
In late February, Aqua America and Penn Virginia Resource Partners became the owners of the 12 acres Riverdale sits on. The partnership will use the parcel in a $50 million plan to build a water-pumping station and 36-mile pipeline with the capacity to carry millions of gallons of water daily from the Susquehanna to natural gas wells.
This small park of 32 trailers, home to an oft-ignored and marginalized population, has become yet another flash point in the national debate over the impact of natural gas drilling and the industry’s methods.
Some say it is the first example of outright evictions because of Marcellus Shale operations in the drilling hotbed of Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia.
The Riverdale trailer park provided affordable homes to a cluster of working-poor families and the elderly of Jersey Shore, a borough of 4,300 people between Lock Haven and Williamsport.
Most residents owned their mobile homes and paid $200 a month to lease the land.
They learned of the project that would eviscerate their community when a story ran in the local newspaper in February.
The majority had neither the desire nor the means to leave. No one bothered to ask them, they said.
The Lycoming County Planning Commission approved site plans to build a pump station on the Riverdale land on Feb. 16.
The park land owners, Richard and Joanne Leonard, sold it to the partnership for $550,000 on Feb. 23, according to Lycoming County assessment records. The land was last valued by the county assessment office at $439,890.
The trailer-park’s manager recently waved off a reporter asking for comment.
Shortly after the land sale, residents received eviction notices.
Natural gas prices have declined steadily over the last few years because of the discovery of huge new domestic sources, including the Marcellus Shale.
Consumers could save even more if the state Public Utility Commission would force gas utilities to account for the vast amounts of gas that they lose between the well and the consumer.
According to a February report by the PUC, Pennsylvania consumers pay up to $131 million a year for gas that never reaches their furnaces, stoves or industrial process because it escapes from delivery systems. Utilities reported losing amounts from zero to 11.9 percent of their volume, second nationally to California. Pennsylvania's market is the ninth largest nationwide.
Higher demand from growing East Coast markets coupled with favorable economics even at currently low prices point to a continued boom in natural production from the Marcellus shale play according to a new report from Fitch Ratings. The firm cites a consensus estimate for production to rise from its current level of 4 billion cubic feet/day to more than 10 billion cubic feet/day over the next five years.
The ratings ings agency has looked at 10 pipeline and midstream companies with an eye to both transportation and processing facilities. These MLPs include Enterprise Products Partners LP (NYSE: EPD), EQT Corp. (NYSE: EQT), MarkWest Energy Partners L.P. (NYSE: MWE), National Gas Co. (NYSE: NFG), NiSource Inc. (NYSE: NI), Rockies Express Pipeline LLC (a joint venture of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners L.P. (NYSE: KMP), ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) and Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE)), Spectra Energy Corp. (NYSE: SE), Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. (NYSE: SXL), Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. (owned by Kinder Morgan), and Williams Partners L.P. (NYSE: WPZ).