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MSC, PIOGA to Study Radioactive Materials From Drilling

The Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) and the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) will study radioactive materials produced from shale development activities, with the results intended to complement a similar study being performed by state regulators, the groups said.

Last January, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) launched a 12- to 14-month study of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) and technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM); the former can become the latter if disturbed, exposed or concentrated by another activity (see Shale Daily, Oct. 3).

On Monday, MSC and PIOGA said its study "is intended to augment the DEP study and provide samples that are representative of the media being tested, and use the proper sampling and testing procedures in order to compare results.”

According to a 42-page field sampling plan for the MSC-PIOGA study, oil and gas facilities from across Pennsylvania will be tested. The organizations want to test unconventional wells in the dry gas areas in the northern and central parts of the state, and the wet gas area in the southwestern part of the state.

The industry groups also want to collect samples from at least one well targeting the Utica Shale, and possibly other conventional shales -- including the Geneseo, Burket and Rhinestreet formations -- as well as shallow conventional wells targeting the Oriskany sandstone formation.

MSC and PIOGA also plan to collect samples from wastewater treatment facilities, compressor stations, and other infrastructure that carries and distributes gas produced in Pennsylvania. The groups said their primary constituents of concern were for levels of uranium-238, thorium-232, radium-226, radium-228, radon-220, radon-222, and any unsupported decay chain radionuclides.

The samples would include drill cuttings, drilling mud, accumulated solids, treatment water sludge, discharge sediment, solid phase from flowback and produced water, and scale from drill rigs and other equipment. At least three sample events of wastewater and sludge would be collected.

"This study's sampling plan exhaustively covers the exploration and production process," said MSC President David Spigelmyer. "Its results, and other sources of sound data, will help our industry more fully understand and proactively address this important issue."

PIOGA President Lou D'Amico concurred. "We are encouraging our members to participate in this study, along with DEP's ongoing evaluation," D'Amico said. "Our organizations will provide our results to the DEP and work closely with the department to continue to make certain that Pennsylvania's environment is effectively protected and enhanced alongside safe, responsible shale development.”

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