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Pennsylvania DEP Cites Producer For Drilling Fluid Migration, Other Violations

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has issued a notice of violation to JKLM Energy LLC after nearly 100 gallons of a foaming agent migrated from a well in Potter County last month and jeopardized nearby private water supplies.

The company, which was established in 2013 and is headquartered in Southwestern Pennsylvania, chose to create a website and open a community field office to deal with the response efforts. The DEP said it has had representatives in the area, located in north-central Pennsylvania, "almost daily" since Sept. 21 to collect water samples, meet with property owners and oversee remediation efforts.

The agency issued a notice of violation for failure to prevent pollution of fresh groundwater; illegally drilling through a freshwater aquifer with something other than air, freshwater or freshwater based drilling fluids, and for violations of the state's Clean Streams law.

In a series of press releases since the incident occurred on Sept. 18, JKLM said it realized that a foaming agent containing isopropanol used to aid drilling and production had migrated into subsurface and groundwater (see Shale DailySept. 29). The company said the surfactant was used to help free a broken drill bit piece from its Reese Hollow 118 pad in Sweden Township. The company has been securing mineral rights in the region since last year as interest in the Utica Shale has grown in Potter and nearby Tioga counties (see Shale DailyNov. 24, 2014).

The DEP said it was working to provide fresh water supplies to any affected properties. The Cole Memorial Hospital, which last year leased property it owned off site to JKLM, has been switched to municipal water supplies as a precaution. The agency said JKLM now estimates that 98 gallons of the foaming agent migrated. The company said it believed at least five private water wells could be impacted. On Sunday, it confirmed that tests had detected isopropanol -- a product also commonly found in household cleaners -- in at least one well.

The DEP said it has collected 60 individual water samples. The agency added that the foaming agent included a 10-15% concentration of isopropanal, which is not approved for use in the state when drilling through freshwater aquifers. The solution was diluted in 22,000 gallons of water and also included 35 gallons of rock oil, a petroleum product used to lubricate the drill bit.

DEP and JKLM continue to monitor the migration and are currently working on cleanup and remediation efforts. JKLM has also voluntarily suspended its drilling activities at the Reese Hollow pad.

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