The goal of this project is to develop a modeling system that will allow operators and regulators to plan all aspects of water management activities associated with shale gas development in the targeted project area of New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia (including the aspects of water supply, transport, storage, use, recycling, and disposal). This modeling system can be used for planning, managing, forecasting, permit tracking, and compliance monitoring.
Arthur Langhus Layne LLC / dba ALL Consulting, Tulsa, OK
Natural gas production from hydrocarbon-rich shale formations, known as “shale gas”, is one of the most rapidly expanding trends in onshore domestic oil and gas exploration and production today. Tremendous natural gas resource potential has been identified in shale basins across the U.S., with one of the largest being the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachian Basin. Recoverable gas resources within the Marcellus Shale are estimated to exceed 300 trillion cubic feet. As shale gas development in the Marcellus area (which includes parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) has proceeded, the most significant environmental issues to arise involved water resource availability, usage, and disposal. This burgeoning concern has the potential to significantly delay development and utilization of this critical domestic energy resource.
The water management lifecycle for shale gas wells has several phases. First, a suitable water supply must be found that is both accessible and available. Either surface or ground water sources, possibly augmented by recycled industrial waste water, need to be identified. Once procured, the water must then be transported to and stored at or near the subject well sites. While some of this water is used in the drilling process, the bulk of the fresh water used is mixed with small amounts of chemical additives and pumped under pressure into the subsurface to hydraulically fracture the rock, which allows the gas to flow to the well. Thirty-to-seventy percent of this “fracture” water is channeled back up the well bore to be captured. This water must be disposed of in an approved manner, which may be one of the following three methods: (1) underground injection, (2) treatment and discharge to surface waters, or (3) recycling for additional fracturing operations or other industrial uses.
Every step of this water management lifecycle is regulated. In the Marcellus region, two river basin commissions, the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Delaware River Basin Commission, permit withdrawal of surface water from their respective basins. Although they work closely with the states, they are independent regulatory bodies and are the primary agencies overseeing all water-related activities within their jurisdictional boundaries. While disjointed segments of a water management system currently exist, there is no publically available system or tool that encompasses all of the planning, forecasting, managing, tracking, and compliance monitoring functions required to truly address shale gas development water-related concerns. This project offers an approach to manage the entire industrial water lifecycle with one comprehensive system. This system should provide the capability to analyze impacts and options with regard to operational efficiency, regulatory tracking/compliance, and future water usage and disposition planning.
The system to be developed under this project offers the potential for various positive impacts. For industry, it will permit the planning of comprehensive water management operations specific to a project or an area. This should result in optimum water usage at minimal costs subject to regulatory guidelines and other constraints. It will facilitate option and tradeoff analysis, and will simplify the permitting and reporting processes required by regulatory agencies. The system will assist regulators in (1) studying cumulative impacts of development, (2) conserving water resources, and (3) managing disposal options across a region. It will also allow them to track permits and monitor compliance. The public will benefit from enhanced water conservation, improved environmental performance (driven by better system-wide decision-making), and a greater supply of domestic natural gas, with attendant lower prices. Overall, the improved efficiencies and reduced barriers to operation will facilitate recovery of the more than 300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas estimated to exist in the Marcellus Shale.
Technical accomplishments to date include:
The project was discontinued due to limited funds and changing program priorities. A final technical report summarizing activities through March 20, 2012, has been received and is available below under “Additional Information”.
Water Resource and Use for Hydraulic Fracturing in the Marcellus Shale Region [PDF-1.43MB] - ALLConsulting LLC
Technology Status Assessment [PDF-98KB]
Kickoff Presentation [PDF-5.36MB]