Updated Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale Waste Information

Total Waste Produced by Marcellus Shale Well (small)Mixed total of waste produced by Marcellus Shale gas wells between July 1 and December 31, 2010. For more information on specific wells, click the blue “i” button, then click on one of the purple dots.

Self reported Marcellus Shale waste data for the period between July 1 and December 31, 2010 is now available on the DEP website and FracTracker’s DataTool in the following categories:

  • Basic Sediment (in barrels): Sludge that collects at the bottom of storage tanks and pits
  • Brine (in barrels): These are naturally occurring pockets of saltwater that are encountered in the drilling process.
  • Drill Cuttings (in tons): This is composed of the layers of earth that the drill passes through on the way to the target formation.
  • Drilling (in barrels): The main function of drilling fluid is to maintain the proper pressure in the well
  • Frac Fluid (in Barrels): This is what is injected into the well during the hydraulic fracturing process, much of which tends to flow back out.
  • Servicing Fluid (in Barrels): Waste produced by one of a variety of post-production services performed on a well.
  • Spent Lubricant (in Barrels): This lubricates the drill bit

I have also pivoted the data to establish how much waste is transported to the various disposal locations.

Locations accepting Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale waste. Please click on the gray compass rose and double carat (^) to hide those menus.

I have a few initial observations about the waste production data:

  • The totals for waste production in every category except Basic Sediment are higher for the six month period from than they were for the one year period ending on June 30, 2010. This increase almost certainly reflects better reporting rather than a dramatic increase in waste production in the last half of 2010.
  • There are some obvious inaccuracies in the map of the facilities receiving Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale waste. There is no reason that this waste would be shipped to Texas or Alabama, for example. Those locations are most likely corporate addresses of the waste facilities.
  • Despite the fact that companies are supposed to report both addresses and latitude and longitude of the receiving facilities, not all of the facilities receiving waste are on this map. The list of addresses appeared to be more complete, so that is what was used for mapping purposes. If you download the full dataset, addresses in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, West Virinia, Maryland, and New Jersey are given as recipients of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale waste.

PA Fish and Boat Commission Targets Gas Extraction as Resource Threat


This article has been archived and is provided for reference purposes only.

Wastewater Facilities Accepting Marcellus Shale Brine and Major Drainage Basins. Click the map for a larger, dynamic view.

By Conrad Dan Volz, DrPH, MPH.
Director and Principal Investigator of the Center for Healthy Environments and Communities

Management Plans by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) have been released for public comment for the 3 major drainages in Pennsylvania:

Public meetings on each of these draft plans are underway and dates and times and places of future meetings for each basin are now available on the PFBC website.

The PFBC has as its goal of these management plans – to protect, conserve and enhance the aquatic resources of and provide fishing and boating opportunities. The PFBC also has an important role in investigating releases of brine water from oil and gas extraction operations. Mr. John Arway the Executive Director of the PFBC just published in the January / February Edition of Pennsylvania Angler and Boater a very sobering assessment of water withdrawals and permitted pollution of Pennsylvania waterways by NPDES permit holders. He states that end users of municipal water are paying increased costs for water purification because of companies that are allowed to pollute receiving waters. This is a very courageous statement and I concur wholly with him on this. His complete statement can be found here.

Below are presented excerpts from the PFBC Draft Three Rivers Management Plan that pertains to Marcellus Shale gas extraction. Most important is their statement in the draft plan that in 2008, several wastewater treatment plants located along the Monongahela River were accepting frac-flowback water from multiple sources. Unable to completely treat this water, plant outflows caused a temporary spike in conductivity (readings as high as 1,200 μS/cm) and total dissolved solids (TDS readings as high as 900 mg/L) in the Monongahela River during October and November 2008. Other passages related to Marcellus are:

  • “In June 2010, the Monongahela River was named number nine of the top ten America’s Most Endangered Rivers by American Rivers primarily because of continuing threats from water pollution impacts from natural gas extraction activities in the Marcellus Shale.”
  • “Since 2008, PADEP Southwest Regional Office in Pittsburgh has directed a comprehensive
    water quality monitoring investigation of the Monongahela River related to impacts from disposal of contaminated frac-flowback water from Marcellus Shale drilling sites. This office has also surveyed fish, mussel, and invertebrate assemblages of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers as well as collected water quality and sediment quality samples and evaluated riparian and instream habitats for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) Environmental
    Monitoring and Assessment Program for Great Rivers Ecosystems (EMAP-GRE). PADEP will
    provide PFBC information and results of Allegheny and Monongahela EMAP-GRE when the
    project is complete (in 2011).”
  • “Marcellus Shale is a unit of Devonian-age sedimentary rock found throughout the Appalachian
    Plateau. Named for a distinctive outcrop located near the village of Marcellus, New York,
    Marcellus Shale contains a massive and largely untapped natural gas reserve, which has high
    economic potential (trillions of dollars) given its proximity to high-demand markets in the eastern United States. Using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques, numerous Marcellus Shale wells have been installed within the upper Ohio River basin for exploitation of natural gas.”
  • “With any resource extraction operation, there are environmental consequences. For Marcellus
    Shale drilling, most issues involve the transport, treatment, and disposal of contaminated frac flowback water, a byproduct of hydraulic fracturing. In 2008, several wastewater treatment
    plants located along the Monongahela River were accepting frac-flowback water from multiple
    sources. Unable to completely treat this water, plant outflows caused a temporary spike in
    conductivity (readings as high as 1,200 μS/cm) and total dissolved solids (TDS readings as high
    as 900 mg/L) in the Monongahela River during October and November 2008.”
  • “Some Monongahela River tributaries continue to be disturbed by modern industries, such as longwall mining and Marcellus Shale drilling, including Dunkard Creek and Tenmile Creek. Major tributary streams of the upper Ohio River include Chartiers Creek (one of the most disturbed streams in the basin from numerous perturbations), Raccoon Creek (a recovering stream), and the Beaver River system.”

PA DEP Upgrades Drilled Well Data Distribution

The Pennsylvania DEP now has a linkto download all of the drilled wells from the Spud Report in Excel file format (1). This is a major upgrade over their previous system of posting online tables for each month, not only for the ease of access, but also because it contains complete location information, which previously had to be obtained elsewhere by matching the American Petroleum Institute (API) number with an external dataset; an imperfect system which resulted in thousands of wells between 1998 and 2010 for which location information could not be found.

Drilled wells in Pennsylvania in 2011. Click the gray compass rose and double carat (^) tabs for a complete view.

In addition, it utilizes the full API number. For example, in well number 37-005-30663-01-01, the initial 37 is the state code for Pennsylvania, and the 005 is the county code for Armstrong County.

  1. The Spud Date is the day that drilling begins on a particular well.
  2. API county codes, as well as a variety of other codes used by the PA DEP are explained here.

How is PA handling shale gas wastewater?


Jim Riggio, plant manager for the Beaver Falls Municipal
Authority, shows a sample of solid materials removed from
the Beaver River during treatment Dec. 15 at his plant.

On January 3rd, Associated Press writer, David Caruso, criticized the efforts underway in Pennsylvania to protect surface waters from shale gas drilling wastewater – especially because in most other states the primary means of disposal is deep well injection.

On January 4th, both the Marcellus Shale Coalition (the industry’s PR group) and DEP Secretary John Hanger defended the Commonwealth’s actions and current regulations.

What do you think?

Do you want to know where shale gas wastewater is permitted to be disposed of into surface waters near you? Below is a snapshot that I made in August 2010 using FracTracker’s DataTool of the facilities within PA that are permitted to receive shale gas drilling wastewater:

To learn more about a particular site, click on the inspect button in the gray toolbar – the “i” – and then click on a red diamond. A white box will pop up. Within that box, click on “view” to see who operates these facilities and how much wastewater per day they are permitted to receive. (“MGD” stands for Million Gallons Per Day. “GPD” means Gallons Per Day.)

And finally, here are two blog posts written by CHEC staff about the challenges facing our surface waters – and potentially our health – as a result of both fresh water withdrawals and wasterwater disposal: