Posts

PA Production and Waste Data Updated

Every six months, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) publishes production and waste data for all unconventional wells drilled in the Commonwealth.  These data are self-reported by the industry to PADEP, and in the past, there have been numerous issues with the data not being reported in a timely fashion.  Therefore, the early versions of these two datasets are often incomplete.  For that reason, I now like to wait a few weeks before analyzing and mapping this data, so as to avoid false conclusions.  That time has now come.


This map contains production and waste totals from unconventional wells in Pennsylvania from July to December, 2013. Based on data downloaded March 6, 2014. Also included are facilities that received the waste produced by these wells. To access the legend and other map controls, please click the expanding arrows icon at the top-right corner of the map.

Production

Top 20 unconventional gas producers in PA, from July to December 2013.  The highest values in each column are highlighted in red.

Table 1: Top 20 unconventional gas producers in PA, from July to December 2013. Highest values in each column are highlighted in red.

Production values can be summarized in many ways. In this post, we will summarize the data, first by operator, then by county. For operators, we will take a look at all operators on the production report, and see which operator has the highest total production, as well as production per well (Table 1).

It is important to note that not all of the wells on the report are actually in production, and not all of the ones that are produce for the entire cycle. However, there is some dramatic variance in the production that one might expect from an unconventional well in Pennsylvania that correlates strongly with which operator drilled the well in question.  For example, the average Cabot well produces ten times the gas that the average Atlas well does.  Even among the top two producers, the average Chesapeake well produces 2.75 times as much as the average Range Resources well.

The location of the well is the primary factor in regards to production values.  74 percent of Atlas’ wells are in Greene and Fayette counties, in southwestern Pennsylvania, while 99 percent of Cabot’s wells are in Susquehanna County.  Similarly, 79 percent of Range Resources’ wells are in the its southwestern PA stronghold of Washington County, while 62 percent of Chesapeake’s wells are in Bradford county, in the northeast.

Pennsylvania unconventional gas production by county, from July to December 2013.

Table 2: PA unconventional gas production by county, from July to December 2013

Altogether, there are unconventional wells drilled in 38 Pennsylvania counties, 33 of which have wells that are producing (see Table 2).  And yet, fully 1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of t he 1.7 Tcf produced by unconventional wells during the six month period in Pennsylvania came from the three northeastern counties of Susquehanna, Bradford, and Lycoming.

While production in Greene County does not compare to production in Susquehanna, this disparity still does not account for the really poor production of Atlas wells, as that operator averages less than one fourth of the typical well in the county.  Nor can we blame the problem on inactive wells, as 84 of their 85 wells in Greene County are listed as being in production.  There is an explanation, however.  All of  these Atlas wells were drilled from 2006 through early 2010, so none of them are in the peak of their production life cycles.

There is a different story in Allegheny County, which has a surprising high per well yield for a county in the southwestern part of the state.  Here, all of the wells on the report were drilled between 2008 and 2013, and are therefore in the most productive part of the well’s life cycle.  Only the most recent of these wells is listed as not being in production.

Per well production during the last half of 2013 for unconventional wells in Pennsylvania by year drilled.

Table 3: Per well production during last half of 2013 for PA unconventional wells by spud year

Generally speaking, the further back a well was originally drilled, the less gas it will produce (see Table 3). At first glance, it might be surprising to note that the wells drilled in 2012 produced more gas than those drilled in 2013, however, as the data period is for the last half of 2013, there were a number of wells drilled that year that were not in production for the entire data cycle.

In addition to gas, there were 1,649,699 barrels of condensate and 182,636 barrels of oil produced by unconventional wells in Pennsylvania during the six month period. The vast majority of both of these resources were extracted from Washington County, in the southwestern part of the state.  540 wells reported condensate production, while 12 wells reported oil.

Waste

There are eight types of waste detailed in the Pennsylvania data, including:

  • Basic Sediment (Barrels) – Impurities that accompany the desired product
  • Drill Cuttings (Tons) – Broken bits of rock produced during the drilling process
  • Flowback Fracturing Sand (Tons) – Sand used as proppants during hydraulic fracturing that return to the surface
  • Fracing Fluid Waste (Barrels) – Fluid pumped into the well for hydraulic fracturing that returns to the surface.  This includes chemicals that were added to the well.
  • Produced Fluid (Barrels) – Naturally occurring brines encountered during drilling that contain various contaminants, which are often toxic or radioactive
  • Servicing Fluid (Barrels) – Various other fluids used in the drilling process
  • Spent Lubricant (Barrels) – Oils used in engines as lubricants
Method of disposing of waste generated from unconventional wells in Pennsylvania from July to December 2013.

Table 4: Method of disposing of waste generated from unconventional wells in PA from July to December 2013

Solid and liquid waste disposal for the top 20 producers of unconventional liquid waste in Pennsylvania during the last half of 2013.

Table 5: Solid & liquid waste disposal for top 20 producers of PA unconventional liquid waste during last half of 2013

This table shows solid and liquid waste totals for the ten counties that produced the most liquid waste over the six month period.

Table 6: Solid & liquid waste totals for the 10 counties that produced the most liquid waste over the 6 month period

There are numerous methods for disposing of drilling waste in Pennsylvania (see Table 4). Some of the categories include recycling for future use, others are merely designated as stored temporarily, and others are disposed or treated at a designated facility.  One of the bright points of the state’s waste data is that it includes the destination of that waste on a per well basis, which has allowed us to add receiving facilities to the map at the top of the page.

As eight data columns per table is a bit unwieldy, we have aggregated the types by whether they are solid (reported in tons) or liquid (reported in 42 gallon barrels).  Because solid waste is produced as a result of the drilling and fracturing phases, it isn’t surprising that the old Atlas wells produced no new solid waste (see Table 5).  Chevron Appalachia is more surprising, however, as the company spudded 46 wells in 2013, 12 of which were started during the last half of the year.  However, Chevron’s liquid waste totals were significant, so it is possible that some of their solid waste was reported, but miscategorized.

As with production, location matters when it comes to the generation of waste from these wells. But while the largest gas producing counties were led by three counties in the northeast, liquid waste production is most prolific in the southwest (see Table 6).

Table 7: PA Unconventional operators with the most wells that produced gas, oil, and/or condensate, but no amount of waste.  The column on the right shows total number of wells that are indicated as producing, for that same operator, regardless of waste production.

Table 7: PA unconventional operators with the most wells that produced gas, oil, and/or condensate, but no amount of waste.

Finally, we will take a look at the 359 wells that are indicated as in production, yet were not represented on the waste report as of March 6th.  These remarkable wells are run by 38 different operators, but some companies are luckier with the waste-free wells than their rivals.  As there was a six-way tie for 10th place among these operators, as sorted by the number or wells that produce gas, condensate, or oil but not waste, we can take a look at the top 15 operators in this category (see Table 7). Of note, gas quantity only includes production from these wells. Column on the right shows total number of wells that are indicated as producing, for that same operator, regardless of waste production.

114 of Southwestern Energy’s 172 producing wells were not represented on the waste report as of March 6th, representing just under two thirds of the total.  In terms of the number of waste-free wells, Atlas was second, with 55.  As for the highest percentage, Dominon, Hunt, and Texas Keystone all managed to avoid producing any waste at all for each of their seven respective producing wells, according to this self-reported data.

Violations per Well Among PA Operators

Note

This post has been archived. It is provided here for informational purposes only.

People often want to know which operators perform the best (or worst) among their peers in terms of adhering to the laws set forth in a given state. In principle, the easiest metric for determining this is to look at the ratio of violations issued per well, or VpW.

However, in order to make that analysis, we would obviously need to have violations data. Unfortunately, out of the twenty states that we have shale viewers for on FracMapper, we only have violations data for Arkansas, Colorado, and Pennsylvania, with the latter being far and away more robust and complete when compared to the other two. We have been told that the data is also available for North Dakota as well, if we are willing to pay for it, so we might be able to perform a VpW analysis for the Peace Garden State in the near future.

Then, of course, there is the realization that, “What is a violation?” is actually somewhat of a philosophical question in Pennsylvania.  In the past, I’ve determined that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) uses the number of unique violation ID numbers issued to calculate their totals. However, historically, the department would often lump several issues that showed up on the Compliance Report together under the same violation ID.  Others have taken to looking at Notices of Violations (NOV’s), which are more limited in number.  Still others exclude any violations marked as being administrative in nature, an idea that makes sense superficially, but a closer look at the data shows that the label is extremely misleading.  For example, “Pits and tanks not constructed with sufficient capacity to contain pollutional substances” is an administrative violation, as is, “Improper casing to protect fresh groundwater”.

In addition to all of that, the cast of operators is constantly shifting as new operators come on board, old ones get bought out by rivals, joint ventures are formed between them, and the like.  Sometimes a parent company will shift the active operator status to one of its subsidiaries, so wells that were originally Consol will then be listed under CNX, for example.

In terms of violations per well, there is a further complication, in that all of the drilled wells data reflect the current custodians of the wells, whereas the violations data reflect those that received the violations.  The result is that there are records issued for Turm Oil (really!) for wells where Chesapeake is now listed as the operator.  In some respects, this makes sense:  why should Chesapeake carry the burden of the legacy mistakes of Turm in their compliance record?

But it does make analysis somewhat tricky.  My approach has been to combine operators that are obviously the same parent company, and to do the analysis in several different ways, and over different time frames.  Who’s ready for some numbers?

Violations per Well (VpW) for operators of unconventional wells in Pennsylvania with 50 or more wells. Those operators with scores higher than the average of their peers are highlighted in pink.

Violations per Well (VpW) for operators of unconventional wells in Pennsylvania with 50 or more wells. Those operators with scores higher than the average of their peers are highlighted in pink.

Here, violations per well are based on the number of violation ID’s issued, where as NOVpW is based on the number of Notices of Violations.  The date range for this table is from January 1, 2000 through October 21, 2013, and please note that the totals represent those that are included on the chart, not statewide totals.  A lot of violations are lost of the shuffle when we look at only the largest current operators, but it also helps eliminate some of the noise that can be generated with small sample sizes, as well as with the inconsistencies described above.  Here’s a look at data from this year:

Violations per Well (VpW) for operators with unconventional wells in Pennsylvania in 2013, through October 21. Those operators with scores higher than the average of their peers are highlighted in pink.

Violations per Well (VpW) for operators with unconventional wells in Pennsylvania in 2013, through October 21. Those operators with scores higher than on violation per well or NOV per well are highlighted in pink.

Notice that the highest violations per well and notices of violations per well scores are much higher than the data aggregated since 2000, whereas the statewide averages of the two scores are actually much lower.  The former is almost certainly attributable to having a smaller sample size, but there is something else at play with the latter:

Violations per well of Pennsylvania's unconventional wells. 2013 data through 10/21/2013.

Violations per well of Pennsylvania’s unconventional wells. 2013 data through 10/21/2013.

The number of violations per well drilled has been steadily decreasing since 2009, and it is now down to an average of less than one violation issued per every two wells.  There is nothing in the data that indicates why this is the case, however.

Note:  This post was edited on 12/18/2013.  The table showing operators violations per well and NOV’s per well in 2013 originally stated that that values higher than the average of their peers are highlighted in pink.  In fact, only those with values of 1.00 or higher are highlighted in that fashion.

Severed rights and leased lands in PA state forests

Leases and Severed Rights in PA’s State Forests

A few years ago, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the agency responsible for state park and state forest lands throughout Pennsylvania, published maps on their website showing which state forest lands had been leased for the purpose of unconventional oil and gas exploration and development.  Not only has that page been taken down, but the data are also not among the hundreds of Pennsylvania-specific datasets available on the Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access (PASDA), to which DCNR is a key contributor.

This data does still exist though, and it was provided to the FracTracker Alliance from DCNR upon request, along with data showing areas of the state forest where unconventional oil and gas rights are owned by the state, which is not always the case.  However, this fulfillment of our data request came with some strings attached:

  1. I understand that the accuracy of this data set and its boundaries cannot be guaranteed and should not be considered precise.
  2. I will not distribute raw data to other entities outside the scope of this request.
  3. I will annually provide the Bureau of Forestry with a status update of the project activities and findings.  If the project is abandoned, I will provide the Bureau of Forestry copies of the available information from the project.
  4. I will provide the Bureau of Forestry with copies of draft reports, articles, publications and so forth that result from this analysis.
  5. If requested, I agree to supply the Bureau of Forestry with copies of data analysis.
  6. I understand that the Bureau of Forestry or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is not relinquishing any rights or interests with this agreement.

Obviously, this ties our hands with regards to making the data available for download, either through the download section of our site, or through ArcGIS Online, but we feel as if the scope of our request was worded in such a way as to allow us  to produce a map of these layers, and make that available for public viewing.  Readers interested in obtaining similar data will have to contact DCNR directly, until the agency decides to release the data regarding Pennsylvania’s public lands without conditions.

We have combined this data with drilling data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, so that we can finally take a closer look at drilling on public lands in Pennsylvania, including an approximation of which wells are drilled on lands have been leased by the state, and which by third parties.  So with all appropriate disclaimers, here is that map:


Drilled unconventional wells in Pennsylvania and control of mineral rights on state forest land. To access full controls, such as legends, layer controls, and layer descriptions, please click the expanding arrows in the top-right corner of the map.

PA Unconventional Production Data Aggregated

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) publishes unconventional oil and gas production data twice a year.  In its raw form, the data show the production values per well for a given six month period, either January to June or July to December.  The FracTracker Alliance has aggregated the five most recent unconventional production reports in Pennsylvania, and organized the data by well.


PA Production data from July 2010 through December 2012. To learn more about the map and access additional tools, please click the Fullscreen icon.  To access well production data, please zoom in to 1:750,000 (about the size of a county), then click any well icon.

In the thirty months represented in this data, unconventional wells in Pennsylvania produced almost 3.4 trillion cubic feet of gas, about 490,000 barrels of oil, and 2.8 million barrels of condensate.  In terms of geographic distribution, there are thirty-three different counties producing gas, seven counties producing oil, and nine counties producing condensate.

Gas production by PA county from July 2010 to December 2012. Source: PADEP

Gas production by PA county from July 2010 to December 2012. Source: PADEP

Over two trillion cubic feet (Tcf), or sixty-one percent of gas production, came from Bradford, Greene, Lycoming, Susquehanna, Tioga, and Washington counties during this period.

Oil County pie

Oil production by PA county from July 2010 to December 2012. Source: PADEP

Over 97 percent of oil production from Pennsylvania’s unconventional wells during the two and a half year period was from Washington County.

Cond county pie

Condensate production by PA county from July 2010 to December 2012. Source: PADEP

In addition to providing most of the oil, almost 92 percent of the condensate from Pennsylvania’s unconventional wells came from Washington County as well.  Greene County reported 0.01 barrels of condensate production through the thirty month period, but the values here have been rounded to the nearest integer.

We can also look at the production data sorted by operator:

Gas production in Bcf by operator:  July 2010 - December 2012.  Source:  PADEP

Gas production in Bcf by operator from July 2010 to December 2012. Source: PADEP

And finally, we can use this data to compare operators in terms of production per well. Below are the normalized production values for the state’s top 20 unconventional gas producers:

Production per well in thousands of cubic feet (Mcf) by Pennsylvania unconventional operator from July 2010 to December 2012.  Note that the well count includes wells reporting production, not the total number of wells on the report.

Production per well in thousands of cubic feet (Mcf) by Pennsylvania unconventional operator from July 2010 to December 2012. Note that the well count includes wells reporting production, not the total number of wells on the report.

The aggregated production data can be obtained from our Downloads page.

Groundwater Complaints to PADEP Compiled by Times-Tribune

In a May 19th article published in the Scranton Times-Tribune, Laura Legere discusses data that she has compiled from a Right-to-know law request to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP).  The data show 969 complaints between 2008 and the fall of 2012.  According to the article, 161 of these complaints include determination letters where PADEP indicates some sort of link between oil and gas activity and impacted groundwater supplies. The Times-Tribune data has been geolocated and mapped by the FracTracker Alliance:


Map showing groundwater complaints to PADEP from 2008 through Fall 2012. Orange-red dots indicate instances where PADEP has established come connection between drilling activity and groundwater impacts, yellow dots mean that PADEP analysis is still pending, and green dots indicate that PADEP has not established such a connection. Please note that the locations are not exact, and that in many instances there are multiple records at a single location on the map. Click on “Fullscreen” to access additional mapping tools.

According to our correspondence with Ms. Legere, there are future plans to release the source documents to the public as well, once needs to protect the privacy of the complainants have been addressed.

We have also added this data to our US Map of Suspected Well Water Impacts:


US Map of Suspected Well Water Impacts. Here, the Times-Tribune data have been represented by light blue dots. Due to crowding from other layers, it is necessary to zoom in to Pennsylvania to see all of the data. For more information on this map, please click on “Fullscreen” and then the “About” tool.

Life and Times of Loyalsock

By Brook Lenker, Executive Director, and Samantha Malone, Manager of Science and Communications

It’s so quiet you can hear moss squish underfoot and the tapping of a woodpecker a quarter-mile distant. These are the sounds of a lesser-known Pennsylvania Wilds, the lush woodlands and rock-studded beauty of the  Loyalsock State Forest.  Picture a pristine landscape of ferny grottos, expansive bogs, and blueberries ripe for the picking.   The squeaky-clean air seems hyper-enriched, a photosynthetic side-effect of stands thick with maple, birch, hemlock, and pine. Currents of endless streams race impatiently. Rattlesnakes shy but leery, lie and rest.

Across Lycoming and Sullivan counties, the shale gas industry is leaving its industrial footprint, from the iconic Pine Creek Valley through Tiagdaghton State Forest to the Loyalsock and environs.  Yet while Williamsport booms from the infusion of gas, many of the hidden, ecologically-rich spaces of the Loyalsock – from Rock Run to Devil’s Elbow – still whisper.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), of the 2.2 million acres in the state forest system, 675,000 acres are available for gas development. This includes 385,400 acres under Commonwealth-issued leases and 290,000 acres of where the agency doesn’t own the oil and gas rights. The latter scenario applies to 25,621 acres of the Loyalsock’s 114,494 acres where “severed” rights are owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation and International Development Corporation.

Circa July 2012, there is ample evidence of the changes on the horizon. The oranges and yellows of seismic testing equipment (photo left) adorn the sleepy forest roads and the electric pink of ribbon markers decorates the trees and ground. The few leased cabins look lost and lonely, but soon they could have the steady companionship of hundreds of trucks rumbling past their doors carrying water, sand, and some not-so-benign chemicals and waste fluids. The narrow, dirt roads – bound to require widening and repair – are probably inadequate for such intensive use and potentially treacherous for heavy rigs, occasionally known to roll down steep embankments and spill their secrets.  Heavy traffic and structurally-degraded roads can cause significant sediment pollution as suggested by the studies of the Penn State Center for Dirt and Gravel Roads. Sediment is the enemy of native brook trout, our handsome state fish, who adamantly require cool, clear water to survive. Currently, there’s an abundance of such good water within Loyalsock.

But traffic and roadway impacts are but one piece of the shale gas puzzle. Could well casings fail and methane bubble into surface waters (recent accidents in Bradford County and Tioga County are suspected of causing just such problems)? How much will air quality be degraded by diesel emissions from trucks, pumps, generators, drill rigs, and other equipment? How will floodlights and flaring affect star-packed skies or the incessant drone of compressor stations antagonize solitude? While off the beaten path, the forest sees its share of visitors, and recreational trails are a signature of the region. The 27-mile Old Logger’s Path (photo below) is a backpacker’s dream crisscrossing a world of palpable wonders and subterranean severed rights.

Hiking, a popular recreation, and the forest’s quality scenery are big components of tourism, consistently one of Pennsylvania’s leading industries. According to the Pennsylvania Tourism Office, visitor spending across the Commonwealth totaled $34.2 billion in 2010. Comparatively, Penn State research (p.31) indicated that, “…the Marcellus gas industry increased Pennsylvania’s value added by $11.2 billon” for 2010. In the northeastern Pennsylvania, drilling is slowing due in part to the low price of natural gas. The ramifications for the Loyalsock are uncertain but the lasting attraction of idyllic open spaces is unequivocal.

Nevertheless, Anadarko and its partner seek the gas near the Old Loggers Path and vulnerable populations of forest interior birds. Such species require large unbroken tracts of contiguous forest. A recent study in Environmental Management authored by P.J. Drohan, Margaret Brittingham, and others reports that 26% of well pads in the Susquehanna basin are located in core forests (many on DCNR lands). The study quotes a DCNR paper: “further (shale gas) development on state forests is likely to alter the ecological integrity and wild character of state forests.” The authors believe other research supports that assertion.

The Loyalsock is a microcosm of the state forest-shale gas paradigm.  As of a March 2012 DCNR presentation, 814 Marcellus well locations had been approved by the Bureau of Forestry on state forest land and 447 Marcellus wells had been drilled in the state forests including more than 80 well pads. The agency estimates a total of 3810 new Marcellus wells by 2018. With an average well pad size of about five acres, many miles of new and widened roads, even more miles of pipelines, plus intermittent water impoundments and compressor stations, it’s easy to wonder what our state forests will soon look like. And what about the legacy of silviculture cultivated by Pinchot, Rothrock, and other conservation pioneers?  The Pennsylvania state forest system is certified by the Rainforest Alliance under Forest Stewardship Council standards ensuring that the products coming from these forests are managed in an environmentally-responsible manner. At what threshold of shale gas activity will this certification – which adds significant value to finished wood products – be jeopardized?

Since it is likely that Anadarko and its partner will pursue their claims, the fate of the severed parts of the Loyalsock may be shaped by the existence or lack-thereof of a surface use agreement between Anadarko and DCNR. Where DCNR has leased and controls oil and gas rights, a surface use agreement is entered into that steers the development activity in a more sustainable manner and away from especially sensitive forest features. In the case of severed rights, there is uncertainty about the applicability of surface use agreements. However, with little else to ameliorate the collateral damage of gas development in undeveloped surroundings, prudence would suggest it’s a tool worth using.

The stakes are high. DCNR’s own list of “challenges” posed by shale gas for state forest lands include: surface disturbance, forest fragmentation, habitat loss and species impacts, invasive plants, loss of wild character, recreation conflicts, water use and disposal. With the mission of the Bureau of Forestry to “ensure the long-term health, viability and productivity of the Commonwealth’s forests and to conserve native wild plants,” they have their work cut out for them, especially as more drilling tracts are developed.

In the months to come, the industry will be watched, technologies will change, activists will speak, parties will talk; meanwhile, the big, old rattlers, wise but weary, grow restless.

Unconventional Production and Waste Data Still Trickling In

Last week, I took a quick look at the newly released, semi-annual unconventional production report published by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) Office of Oil and Gas Management. The results were fairly stunning: it showed a decrease in production from 607 billion cubic feet (Bcf) for the period from July to December 2011 to just under 303 Bcf for the first six months of 2012.

Thanks to a comment from one of our astute users on the DataTool, I was alerted to the fact that the wells of Pennsylvania’s largest unconventional well operator, Chesapeake Appalachia, were entirely missing.

After checking the data again this morning, Chesapeake’s wells are still missing from the report, but other wells have been included that were previously missing, bringing the temporary total for unconventional gas for the six month period to 705 Bcf. This amounts to a substantial gain over the previous six month cycle, not a dramatic reduction.

I will check back regularly for Chesapeake data, but until then, both the production and waste reports, which are self-reported by operators to PADEP, should be considered incomplete.  I apologize for the inadvertent mischaracterization of the data.

Trail Logbook Project

Collaborative Trail Logbook – Reporting Gas Industry Impacts on PA Trail Experiences

(Harrisburg) – FracTracker.org and the Keystone Trails Association are proud to launch Trail Logbook: Reporting Gas Industry Impacts on Pennsylvania Trail Experiences – an effort to collect information from hikers and other trail users who have had negative or hazardous encounters while recreating in PA.

“Throughout the Marcellus Shale region, more and more we’re hearing of problems from our constituents,” said Curt Ashenfelter, Executive Director of the Keystone Trails Association (KTA) – a volunteer-directed, public service organization dedicated to providing, preserving, protecting and promoting recreational hiking trails and hiking opportunities in PA. “Pennsylvania hikers are concerned about the effect of drilling and want to play a role in monitoring the impact of this industry on PA’s forests and hiking trails.

With a simple-to-use form – available online and as a mail-in postcard – data on a variety of trail impacts related to shale gas drilling activities will be uploaded to FracTracker.org, a website providing a common portal to share data, photos, maps, and information related to the issues corollary to the shale gas industry. Photos of reported impacts can also be submitted.

“We’re pleased to be a partner in this grassroots endeavor to aggregate what have to date been mostly anecdotal but often alarming reports from our state’s extraordinary network of trails,” said Brook Lenker, Director of FracTracker. “We hope the information gathered helps to clarify the nature of the impacts and leads to sustainable solutions.”

“With over 3,000 miles of hiking trails in Pennsylvania and tourism being the Commonwealth’s 2nd largest industry, it’s critical to expose and address recurring problems caused by gas drilling activities, “ Ashenfelter added. “With a quick feedback loop like FracTracker, we can report problems to the appropriate agencies and gas drilling companies and seek remediation quickly.”

For more information on the Trail Logbook project, contact:

To  see the Trail Logbook submission page or to submit data, visit: http://stg.fractracker.org/logbook. If you would prefer to print out the logbook and mail it in, click here.

###

Animating Data: A Different Way to Look at Marcellus Shale Drilling

by Josh Knauer, CEO of Rhiza

At Rhiza, we love to experiment with new ways of visualizing data that help tell better data stories. In most of our work environments, using data is kind of difficult and visualizing is usually left to data experts. We’d love to see a future where sharing data visualizations (maps, charts, explanations, etc) is as easy as recording and sharing a video on YouTube. Not everything produced will be stellar in quality, but at least we’ll all be a lot further down the road towards breaking down the traditional data silos and moving data aggregation and visualization solely out of the hands of database admins and graphic designers. We’ll still need those folks, their jobs will just get a lot more fun!

To this end, when I saw a data animation created by John Detwiler that showed the spread of drilled Marcellus shale gas wells in Bradford County, I wanted to create my own data animation telling the same story, but for the entire state of Pennsylvania… Read more»

Governor Unveils County Drilling Fee, Other Marcellus Shale Proposals

Reposted from PA Environment Digest

Proposal calls for 75% of fee revenues to remain local, 25% to the state

Gov. Tom Corbett today said he agrees with 94 of the 94 recommendations made by his Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission and will be recommending legislation authorizing counties to adopt a drilling fee whose revenue would be split between the state (25 percent) and local governments (75 percent) to offset costs imposed by natural gas development. The recommendations not adopted by the Governor include: forced pooling, re-writing the authority of local governments to regulate drilling linked to a drilling fee and adding natural gas to Tier II of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards. The Governor’s Office did not release legislative language or mention which recommendations would be adopted by legislation, regulation or policy. However, he said about one-third require legislative changes; more than 50 are policy-oriented and can be accomplished within the state agencies. The legislative priorities outlined today will be submitted to the legislative leadership in the near future. The governor has instructed the relevant Cabinet Secretaries to create implementation plans for the policy-oriented recommendations and to submit them to his office within 30 days. “This natural resource will fuel our generating plants, heat our homes and power our state’s economic engine for generations to come,” Corbett said. “This growing industry will also provide new career opportunities that will give our children a reason to stay here in Pennsylvania. We are going to do this safely and we’re going to do it right, because energy equals jobs.”

County Drilling Fee

Under the Governor’s drilling fee proposal, counties with Marcellus or Utica natural gas shales are authorized to adopt a per well drilling fee starting at $40,000 per sell and decreasing to $10,000 per well in four years. A county may provide for a fee credit of up to 30 percent if the driller makes approved investments in natural gas infrastructure, which include setting up natural gas fueling stations or natural gas public transit vehicles. “Estimates show that this impact fee will bring in about $120 million in the first year, climbing to nearly $200 million within six years,” Corbett said. “As the number of wells grows, so will the revenue. Almost all of the money it brings in will go to benefit the places experiencing the impact.” A quarter of the fee revenues would be sent to state government for several specific uses:

  • 4.5 percent– up to $2 million– to the PA Emergency Management Agency for emergency response planning, training and coordination;
  • 3.75 percent– up to $2 million– to the Office of State Fire Commissioner to develop and support first responder activities;
  • 3.75 percent– up to $2 million– to the Department of Health for collecting and disseminating information and supporting outreach activities for investigating health complaints related to shale gas development;
  • 7.5 percent– up to $2 million– to the Public Utility Commission for inspection and enforcement of pipelines;
  • 10.5 percent– up to $10 million– to plug abandoned oil and gas wells and provide for the enforcement of oil and gas programs requirements; and
  • 70 percent and an balance remaining to PennDOT for road and bridge maintenance and repair and transportation infrastructure improvements in counties hosting shale gas development.

Seventy-five percent of the revenues would be retained at the local level and allocated to counties (36 percent), host municipalities (37 percent) and 27 percent to municipalities in shale counties distributed by population and highway miles. Local governments could use the funding for road and bridge repair, water, stormwater and drinking water systems, reclaiming surface and subsurface water supplies, GIS and other information technology, project to increase the availability of housing to low income residents, delivery of social services including domestic relations, drug and alcohol treatment, job training and counseling, court system costs and conservation districts inspection and oversight of natural gas development.

Other Recommendations

As a part of this proposal, Corbett announced a series of prudent standards related to unconventional drilling, including:

  • Increasing the well setback distance from private water wells from the current 200 feet to 500 feet, and to 1,000 feet from public water systems;
  • Increasing the setback distance for wells near streams, rivers, ponds and other bodies of water from 100 feet to 300 feet;
  • Increasing well bonding from $2,000 up to $10,000;
  • Increasing blanket well bonds from $25,000 up to $250,000;
  • Expanding an unconventional gas operator’s “presumed liability” for impairing water quality from 1,000 feet to 2,500 feet from a gas well, and extending the duration of presumed liability from 6 months after well completion to 12 months;
  • Enabling DEP to take quicker action to revoke or withhold permits for operators who consistently violate rules;
  • Doubling penalties for civil violations from $25,000 to $50,000; and
  • Doubling daily penalties from $1,000 a day to $2,000 a day.

Corbett’s proposal also seeks to help secure energy independence and reduce reliance on foreign oil by developing “Green Corridors” for natural gas vehicles with refueling stations at least every 50 miles and within two miles of key highways; by amending the PA Clean Vehicles Program to include “bi-fuel” vehicles (diesel and natural gas); by helping schools and mass transit systems to convert fleets to natural gas vehicles; by stabilizing electric prices by using natural gas for generating electricity; and by encouraging the development of markets for natural gas and natural gas byproducts, such as within the plastics and petrochemical industries.

A summary of the Governor’s proposal is available online. Visit the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission webpage for a complete copy of the July report.