Here at the well site, where we are collecting valid data to serve you better, we have time to think. Then we write it down for your benefit. Check here on occasion to see what we here at Ground Water Science have to say about various things; wells, ground water, the world... from that underground point of view. We also invite you to take a look at our Ground Water Science page on Facebook where we post news, links, and comments of interest, and attempt to engage in dialog.
If you live around or follow the topic of large-scale deep shale hydrocarbon development, made possible by technical advances in horizontal and directional drilling, reservoir evaluation, and hydrofracturing, you know that this is a controversial subject, with hardened, politicized positions. Unfortunately, neither pro- nor anti-drilling (or "fracking") ideological stands are completely vindicated.
Ground Water Science has been following this topic since it first became an issue in eastern Ohio (see Shale Gas in our Technical Article Library, which includes other topics of interest to ground water users). We add new links to resources there as we become aware of them. Of recent interest have been studies and incipient databases on water quality, including The Shale Network, a consortium of university researchers, supported by the National Science Foundation, and studies of water quality across Pennsylvania, where deep shale (Marcellus) development is advanced. In the hoopla over the Shale Network, a long-standing Citizen Groundwater/Surface Water Database in PA should not be overlooked. Also, studies of the Wind River basin around Pavillion, Wyoming. Ohio has been adding resources for water sales planning. These are all linked on "Shale Gas". Also, some limited study has shown statistically that state regulation of oil and gas is working in reducing risk. Study also shows that inadequate water well regulation and owner neglect - and not oil & gas - is perhaps the biggest risk to well water users.
So far, the water quality studies in shale basins have been encouraging, although there are individual incidents, and this is early in the development phase. Pavillion studies appear inconclusive, even in a conventional basin where water and hydrocarbon zones are close and poorly separated from one another geologically.
So far, Marcellus and Utica development has been very deep, well separated from shallow fresh drinking water. As Utica development moves westward in Ohio, with more shallow Utica-Point Pleasant occurrence (assuming thermal maturity), a situation more like the Wind River basin may occur.
Both Ohio and Pennsylvania have learned a great deal, strengthened their monitoring and regulatory systems at the state level, and land owners have learned to deal with the E&P people. Still, incidents occur. We haven't dwelt on the deep well "brine" injection issue in Ohio, where the earthquakes here in the new Rock N Roll Capital of Ohio started and stopped contemporaneously with enhanced pressurization of a deep injection well and an end to pressurization. That incident has led to toughened standards for injection and new regulation recently drafted, and soon to be adopted, following a comment period. The National Academy of Science has published a new report on induced seismicity events (added as a link to our "Shale Gas" page (along with a link to the new feel-good movie "Truthland").
A big and growing problem is the pile of humble shale drilling cuttings. When you drill any earth hole, cuttings come up and they have to go somewhere. Cuttings from Ohio and surrounding states are often hauled to Ohio solid waste and construction debris landfills. Such shale can contain significant naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). Ohio has rules about handling NORM-affected wastes, but does not appear to be testing for NORM.
We still need to do more to return fresh water "borrowed" for hydrofracturing (HF) to the shallow hydrologic system -- both recycling and treating to release, instead of so much deep well injection of what was once fresh water. Ohio finds itself in a ridiculous position of banning processes and businesses that can recovery fresh water from so-called "brine". The definition made sense in the past, but no longer. Also, the state and land owners need to closely monitor and regulate fresh water taking for HF. Within the current regulatory framework, maximizing recycling for frac fluid should be the goal. It will be if it makes economic sense. That will change if there is pressure to avoid simply taking fresh water.
Ground Water Science takes the position that as long as science, engineering and technique can assure safe development of shale hydrocarbons, that is a good thing, but we are always "Water First" because we'll always need water.
We will help do hydrogeologic planning for industrial water supplies, but call on us for water quality testing, too. In either case, you will get the facts and unvarnished recommendations.
|Environmental Issues in Natural Gas Production|
Thu Jun 13
|The Sustainable Wellfield: An Asset Management Short Course|
Tue Jun 18
|Ohio Groundwater Forum|
Wed Jun 19
Wells are not always vertical and plumb. Sometimes it is best to construct a well at an angle or even horizontally. Ground Water Science can help work this out with regulators and develop plans of action.