Expanding Knowledge of Marcellus Shale Development

marcellus workshop

Last week I walked over to Pond Lab to listen to a presentation on how wastewater from gas wells was being handled. Development of Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania is an important and at times contentious issue.  People and communities look to Penn State for unbiased, research-based information to help address these issues.

jim ladleeJim Ladlee, county extension director in Clinton County, works in a part of Pennsylvania with heavy natural gas development.

News reports have indicated that the majority of the flowback water from gas wells is partially treated and then released to surface waters utilized for drinking water at downstream locations. This has raised water quality concerns to downstream users. It's one of the areas that cooperative extension works hard to address.

Dave YoxtheimerDave Yoxtheimer, extension associate in Earth and Mineral Sciences and part of the Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research, presented a program titled “Wastewater Management for Marcellus Natural Gas Development in Pennsylvania.” 

Dave Yoxheimer discussed the wastewater stream—commonly known as flowback water—that is associated with hydraulic fracturing of natural gas-bearing shales. I had wondered for a long time about the composition of the fracking solution and had assumed it to be primarily a mix of chemicals and compounds.  It was good to get the facts -- 99.51 percent of the solution is made up of sand and water. About one pound of sand per gallon of water.  The remaining 0.49 percent is made up of a variety of lubricants, acids, and other compounds to assist in the fracking process.

The presentation was videotaped and will be available on the Web site of the Marcellus Center for Research and Outreach.  See the links at the end of this post.

Yoxheimer also outlined existing treatment technologies and their effectiveness in removing contaminants. He also will address the implications of Pennsylvania’s new wastewater treatment regulations for water quality and the increased use of wastewater by the industry.

Penn State is working hard to provide the best information possible in this area. Several faculty and staff were in attendance including Charles Abdalla, Bryan Swistock, Jim Ladlee, and Jim Hamlett.  Their efforts and those of colleagues continue to help address emerging challenges in this area.

A quick search of the Web reveals information on a wide range of subjects.

I’ve compiled a short list below.

Marcellus Center for Research and Outreach Presentations and Videos

Publications on Marcellus Shale

Cooperative Extension Natural Gas Resources

Cooperative Extension Water Resources -- Marcellus Shale

Penn State Stories on Marcellus Shale

Penn State Ag Science Magazine -- Finding Answers

Steve Williams
Managing Editor