Paper No. 8
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM
THE USE OF RECYCLED MUNICIPAL WASTEWATER AS A FLUID FOR HYDROFRACTURING ACTIVITIES IN THE APPALACHIAN BASIN
Recycled municipal wastewater has been used in the Eagle Ford formation of Texas as a hydrofracturing fluid. Municipal wastewater use in the southwestern USA is justified by the scarcity of surface water, and elevated costs for groundwater caused by competition with other users, principally agricultural. In the Appalachian Basin the economics and supply of hydrofracturing fluids is entirely different - precipitation is relatively abundant, surface water is ubiquitous, and prices charged by the River Basin Commissions are very low compared to commercial charges in Texas. Ostensibly, municipal wastewater is a resource which is unlikely to find favor with shale gas drillers in the northeast. However, this paper shows that, at least in New York state, several factors (hydraulic conditions in the Upper Susquehanna River and its tributaries during drought periods; the coincidence of the Marcellus Shale fairway and population centers; and plasticity in upcoming regulations) suggest that municipal wastewater may make up a significant proportion of hydrofracturing fluids in the coming years, supposing the current moratorium on development is lifted. The paper explores the factors preventing wastewater use, including legal (can municipalities actually sell their wastewater? Is the treated wastewater a waste or a resource? Who has liability for illness or other damages resulting from its use?), economic (wastewater cost compared to surface water abstractions), political (acceptability of pumping 'treated sewage' into the ground), and hydraulic (lost recharge to surface water). In addition, the paper shows why municipal wastewater is unlikely to be used elsewhere in the Basin.