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Marcellus Shale

  • Marcellus Shale
    Copyright 2011
Published April 14. 2011 05:00PM

A Saturday morning educational symposium on Marcellus Shale was held in the Kidder Township Municipal Building hosted by the Environmental Council.

David T. Messersmith from Penn State Marcellus Education Team fielded questions from residents concerned about various reports conflicting about the safety of "Hydraulic Fracturing" or simply breaking apart Marcellus shale located sometimes more than 1,000 feet below the surface, Messersmith said. Fracturing is using tons of water, chemicals and sand and drilling vertically to a depth of about 1,000 feet or more and moving to a position horizontally drilling where the actual Marcellus is formed looking like a capital L reaching down into the earth.

The rotations of the drill and chemicals of "different" solutions depend on the soil and the area combined. For instance, at first determining if a site is worthy of drilling, studies determine the substance of the soil, sediment, seismic movement, fossil, etc… with millions of gallons of water are literally breaking away the shale and other hard rock moving it back up towards the land surface and into a holding area to be hauled away by what Messersmiths calls, "Trucks, Trucks, and more Trucks." Impact studies determine what exactly will affect the the entire process, but nothing is entirely certain and outcomes vary greatly.

Back and forth from the drill site trucks must keep vigilance in removing contaminated water and returning with more water to keep the ongoing drilling process active.

The black colored shale is slightly radioactive naturally because it is a source rock for radon gas in addition to small possible radioactive decay of uranium, pyrite. The trace minerals and fears associated with certain compounds raise concerns with handling and moving, making proper training and emergency planning essential.

Someone in the audience said that everyone should be trained. "They should be training everybody in the state," she said. Others agreed.

Messersmith said that drilling each Marcellus well requires 410 individuals, almost 150 different occupations, 11.5 fulltime direct jobs, he said. That is just drilling though.

While Marcellus Shale has always been in Pennsylvania, tapping the natural resource was not considered as a viable means for energy conversion due in part because of the depth in mining and costs associated in production. Methods used to tap the natural gas have not been productive and developing it has been arduous.

Hydraulic fracturing is seen as a boost to producing the natural gas effectively more than ever before and at a profit to oil and gas companies who before saw next to no profit or slow profit with the shale.

Prior to 2000, older wells tapping into Pennsylvania Marcellus did not produce much, and production rates decline over time up until hydraulic fracturing was introduced, according to the website,, which Messersmiths referred to in his research, most gas wells decline over time, however with a second hydraulic fracturing treatment it possibly could be used to restimulate production from old wells.

This question was posed by an audience member who asked what will happen when a well dries up.

While the industry is in its infancy regarding Hydraulic Fracturing, and the danger of polluting water systems is relatively uncertain, the 2005 Energy Policy Act exempts Fracturing giving an appearance of credibility to the operation.

Additionally, Hydraulic Fracturing is currently exempt from EPA regulation. However New York State has taken a stand and currently has a moratorium in effect on Fracturing because of the direct proximity of the shale to its watershed.

The FRAC ACT of 2009 was introduced identically in both houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate and most recently was neglected when it was overshadowed by the budget earlier this year, the FRAC Act stands for, FRACTURING RESPONSIBILITY AND AWARENESS OF CHEMICALS ACT, and it was was supposed to amend the Safe Drinking Water Act to allow the EPA to regulate Hydraulic Fracturing. Also, it was intended to do something else, it was supposed to regulate the Fracturing that was taking place in states which have not taken UIC Regulation which is Underground Injection Control, some states have not taken the UIC Regulation.The Bill would require the Energy Industry to reveal what chemicals are being used in the sand water mixture in Hydraulic Fracturing. The EPA states that it is unable to track migration of pollutants and chemicals in fracturing fluid. The Scientific Review Board has reviewed a STUDY plan to be completed by 2012, the EPA will have its report by 2014 titled, Hydraulic Fracturing Report.

Some States have voluntarily adopted the UIC. Sen. Bob Casey, D. Pa. and Chuck Schumer, D. NY introduced the Senate Version of the FRAC Act. It is not known if it will enter the arena this year for a vote, or if it has any chance of passing given the Country's dependance on energy, job creation, and the Pa. Governors aggressive stance on making Pa. a Corporate friendly place to do business.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America who has a vested interest in the Pa. Marcellus Shale as small amounts of Petroleum can be welled in addition to the shale, believes it is an unnecessary expense to pass the Frac Act which could cost each tap an additional 100,000.00.. The Lobbying Group for the Oil and Gas Industry "Energy in Depth" believes progress would be stunted if the Act would pass. They also contend that the industry reports all chemicals used in all processes for public inspection on the OSHA website, in the Material Data Safety Sheets.

In the report by the Geological Survey of Pennsylvania Board of Comissioners, J. Peter Lesley surveyed the Marcellus Valley along Broadheads Creek dipping North more and more steeply until the formation at Weissport on the Lehigh River it plunges vertically under the Mon Mountain. Pg. 1254. The report identifies north eastern Pa. and New York as rich in Marcellus shale.

Some Chemicals in Fracturing fluid include kerosene, benzene, formaldehyde and many others chemicals depending upon the composite and reaction of the compounds in the project well site. For instance, as an example only, Hickory Run Forest has a well which may have high carbon content and geologists may determine a mixture suitable for the Hydraulic Fracturing content to break through without blowing out a methane pocket situated nearby

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