Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


SAMUELS, R.M., Department of Geology, Washington and Lee University, 204 W West Washington Street, Lexington, VA 24450, TYRRELL, J.P., Department of Geology, Washington & Lee University, 204 West Washington Street, Lexington, VA 24450 and LOW, P.C., Department of Geology, Washington and Lee University, Science Addition, Lexington, VA 24450,

Industry practices in managing the wastewater that is generated by hydraulic fracturing have changed substantially in states within the Marcellus Shale Play since the fracking boom began; should wastewater production increase with continued industry expansion, understanding recent trends in the industrial reaction to evolving regulatory and market environments will be useful in determining whether additional regulations are necessary to minimize potential harm to the environment.

This study analyzes the evolution of industry practices in Pennsylvania with regard to managing wastewater from natural gas wells between 2002 and 2012 using data reported by wells to the PA DEP. It examines the volume and type of waste produced per well and per volume of produced natural gas; the lifecycle trends for natural gas and waste for 128,000 wells; and the changing portfolio of viable waste management options.

Although total wastewater production has been increasing for the past three years, the amount of gas produced per unit of waste in PA has doubled (from 30 MCF of gas/bbl of wastewater in 2002 to 62 MCF/bbl in 2012). Also, how the waste has been managed has changed significantly over the past decade. Waste sent to municipal waste treatment facilities decreased from 44% in 2008 to 2% in 2012, while the percent of water recycled has increased (7% in 2002, 13% in 2008, and 56% in 2012), as has the amount injected into Class II disposal wells. In addition to changes in the usage of management methods, a preliminary analysis of disposal routes from well to management facility indicates a trend of increasing average travelling distance. Similar data available from West Virginia for 2012 reveals significant differences.

There have been substantial industry shifts away from management practices that have more potential for causing immediate environmental harm and a decrease in the amount of waste produced per unit of extracted natural gas. The amount of waste produced per well, however, has increased in the past three years, and it is likely that increased production will increase the total volume of produced waste. Therefore, despite a reduction in the percent of wastewater managed through more potentially hazardous methods, the total volume being managed through these facilities may necessitate a reconsideration of current regulations.