Six major producers in the Marcellus Shale say they expect to recycle or inject all of their wastewater by the end of the year, according to information released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Wednesday.
The information comes from responses to a questionnaire the EPA sent to Atlas Resources LLC, Cabot Oil and Gas Corp., Chesapeake Energy Corp., Range Resources Appalachia LLC, Talisman Energy USA and Shell Western Exploration and Production LP in May, asking for detailed information about wastewater handling practices (see Shale Daily, May 16). Those companies account for more than half of the natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.
The EPA released only a small portion of the completed responses.
"By making publicly available the contents of the responses to this question in EPA's information request letters, EPA is not agreeing with legal arguments made by any of the companies, nor has EPA independently verified any of the factual statements set forth in the responses," the EPA wrote in a statement on its website for Region III.
Cabot said it planned to recycle all of its Pennsylvania Marcellus wastewater this year using a third party mobile recycling system. For its West Virginia Marcellus program, the company said it did not plan to drill or complete any new wells this year, but at existing wells would continue its practice of injecting fluids into underground injection control (UIC) wells. Chesapeake said it expects to recycle around 90% of its Marcellus wastewater from Pennsylvania and around half of its Marcellus wastewater from West Virginia, and would dispose of the rest in UIC wells in West Virginia and Ohio.
Chevron Corp. said it plans to recycle 100% of its wastewater at four "core counties" covered under a service agreement with Atlas, a company it acquired earlier this year (see Shale Daily, Feb. 22). Chevron plans to hit that target by the end of the year using a proprietary recycling process. For the remaining fluids, as well as the wastewater from a "limited number" of wells located outside those four counties, Chevron said it planned use four UIC wells facilities in Ohio.
Range said it plans to continue using a combination of UIC wells and an "advanced thermal distillation process" operated by Eureka Resources LLC that treats produced water to the point where it can be handled by local municipal water treatment authorities. Range said it also plans to implement a new recycling program at its northern Marcellus operations that involves moving some brine, drilling fluids and hydraulic fracturing fluids from producing wells to completion operations at other wells, and moving the remaining fluids to the Eureka facility for treatment and disposal. Range estimated it would recycle 99% of its hydraulic fracturing fluids and 91% of its drilling fluids and dispose of the rest at the Eureka facility, and would recycle half its brine, taking the other half to the Eureka facility and UIC wells in Ohio.
Shell said it expects to recycle or treat more than 90% of its wastewater this year and dispose of the rest at "authorized facilities." While the company answered the question, though, it also objected to the request for information, saying that asking about future plans exceeded the statutory authority that the EPA cited in its initial questionnaire.
Talisman said its expects to recycle 90% of its wastewater this year, but wants to eventually recycle all of it. The company plans to use TerrAqua Resource Management in Williamsport, PA, for recycling efforts, but also maintains "sufficient storage capacity" in case it doesn't have any disposal wells able to take the fluids. Talisman said it may be forced to use permitted disposal facilities in the event that its wastewater production exceeds that short-term storage capacity.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) separately has asked Marcellus producers to voluntarily stop delivering wastewater to 15 municipal treatment facilities. The DEP said it believes it got 100% compliance on that request (see Shale Daily, May 20). Ohio also is reporting an increase in wastewater deliveries (see Shale Daily, June 24).