Wastewater management and Marcellus Shale gas development: Trends, drivers, and planning implications

Brian G. Rahm, Josephine T. Bates, Lara R. Bertoia, Amy E. Galford, David Andrew Yoxtheimer, Susan J. Riha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

114 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Extraction of natural gas from tight shale formations has been made possible by recent technological advances, including hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling. Global shale gas development is seen as a potential energy and geopolitical "game-changer." However, widespread concern exists with respect to possible environmental consequences of this development, particularly impacts on water resources. In the United States, where the most shale gas extraction has occurred, the Marcellus Shale is now the largest natural gas producing play. To date, over 6,000,000 m3 of wastewater has been generated in the process of extracting natural gas from this shale in the state of Pennsylvania (PA) alone. Here we examine wastewater management practices and trends for this shale play through analysis of industry-reported, publicly available data collected from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Oil and Gas Reporting Website. We also analyze the tracking and transport of shale gas liquid waste streams originating in PA using a combination of web-based and GIS approaches. From 2008 to 2011 wastewater reuse increased, POTW use decreased, and data tracking became more complete, while the average distance traveled by wastewater decreased by over 30%. Likely factors influencing these trends include state regulations and policies, along with low natural gas prices. Regional differences in wastewater management are influenced by industrial treatment capacity, as well as proximity to injection disposal capacity. Using lessons from the Marcellus Shale, we suggest that nations, states, and regulatory agencies facing new unconventional shale development recognize that pace and scale of well drilling leads to commensurate wastewater management challenges. We also suggest they implement wastewater reporting and tracking systems, articulate a policy for adapting management to evolving data and development patterns, assess local and regional wastewater treatment infrastructure in terms of capacity and capability, promote well-regulated on-site treatment technologies, and review and update wastewater management regulations and policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)105-113
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Volume120
DOIs
StatePublished - May 5 2013

Fingerprint

Wastewater
Shale
Planning
wastewater
shale
natural gas
Natural gas
Well drilling
Horizontal drilling
horizontal drilling
Hydraulic fracturing
Shale gas
trend
planning
shale gas
nation state
Environmental protection
Potential energy
potential energy
Water resources

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Cite this

Rahm, Brian G. ; Bates, Josephine T. ; Bertoia, Lara R. ; Galford, Amy E. ; Yoxtheimer, David Andrew ; Riha, Susan J. / Wastewater management and Marcellus Shale gas development : Trends, drivers, and planning implications. In: Journal of Environmental Management. 2013 ; Vol. 120. pp. 105-113.
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abstract = "Extraction of natural gas from tight shale formations has been made possible by recent technological advances, including hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling. Global shale gas development is seen as a potential energy and geopolitical {"}game-changer.{"} However, widespread concern exists with respect to possible environmental consequences of this development, particularly impacts on water resources. In the United States, where the most shale gas extraction has occurred, the Marcellus Shale is now the largest natural gas producing play. To date, over 6,000,000 m3 of wastewater has been generated in the process of extracting natural gas from this shale in the state of Pennsylvania (PA) alone. Here we examine wastewater management practices and trends for this shale play through analysis of industry-reported, publicly available data collected from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Oil and Gas Reporting Website. We also analyze the tracking and transport of shale gas liquid waste streams originating in PA using a combination of web-based and GIS approaches. From 2008 to 2011 wastewater reuse increased, POTW use decreased, and data tracking became more complete, while the average distance traveled by wastewater decreased by over 30{\%}. Likely factors influencing these trends include state regulations and policies, along with low natural gas prices. Regional differences in wastewater management are influenced by industrial treatment capacity, as well as proximity to injection disposal capacity. Using lessons from the Marcellus Shale, we suggest that nations, states, and regulatory agencies facing new unconventional shale development recognize that pace and scale of well drilling leads to commensurate wastewater management challenges. We also suggest they implement wastewater reporting and tracking systems, articulate a policy for adapting management to evolving data and development patterns, assess local and regional wastewater treatment infrastructure in terms of capacity and capability, promote well-regulated on-site treatment technologies, and review and update wastewater management regulations and policies.",
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Wastewater management and Marcellus Shale gas development : Trends, drivers, and planning implications. / Rahm, Brian G.; Bates, Josephine T.; Bertoia, Lara R.; Galford, Amy E.; Yoxtheimer, David Andrew; Riha, Susan J.

In: Journal of Environmental Management, Vol. 120, 05.05.2013, p. 105-113.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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