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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Methane Migration Problems Continue in PA - Hanger Says Companies Must Take it Seriously

From NPR comes a report on methane from drilling sites polluting nearby water wells.  John Hanger, former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, notes that the gas migration problem is one that the industry needs to give serious attention to.

It should be noted, as a reminder, that these instances of methane pollution are not caused by hydraulic fracturing.

From NPR:
Mike and Nancy Leighton's problems began on May 19, just as Mike was settling in to watch the Preakness Stakes. A neighbor in Leroy Township, Pa., called Mike and told him to check the water well located just outside his front door.
"I said, 'I'll be down in 15 minutes.' I wanted to see the race," Leighton said. But as the horses were racing, Leighton's well was overflowing. Typically, there's between 80 to 100 feet of head space between the top of the well and its water supply. But when Leighton went outside, the water was bubbling over the top.
Down the road, Ted and Gale Franklin's water well had gone dry. When water started coming out later that week, the liquid was "black as coal," according to Gale.
Since then, both families have been dealing with methane-contaminated water supplies, as well as dozens of mysterious, flammable gas puddles bubbling up on their properties.
Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection blames a nearby hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operation. It says methane gas has leaked out of the well, which is operated by Chesapeake Energy, and into the Leightons' and Franklins' water supplies.
The danger goes beyond contaminated water. In a letter to both families detailing test results and preliminary findings, state regulators wrote that "there is a physical danger of fire or explosion due to the migration of natural gas water wells." Chesapeake has installed ventilation systems at the two water wells, but the letter warns, "it is not possible to completely eliminate the hazards of having natural gas in your water supply by simply venting your well."
Read the rest of NPR's report, and hear audio, here.

John Hanger had this to say on his blog:
The gas industry must routinely recognize, accept, and fix its mistakes.  It's not perfect and never will be.  But it can be better, even excellent.

For excellence in operations to be achieved, every company and employee in the gas industry must treat gas migration as a real problem that should be a top priority.  In this vein, I was disappointed by the quotation in the Detrow piece from API, but that may be a function of not including all that was said by the API spokesperson.  

In this piece, the API stresses the infrequency of gas migration, when I would have hoped that the API would stress how important it is to prevent gas migration and for the industry to become consistently more excellent in operations to reduce further gas migration cases. Strong rules and strong enforcement of rules can make a major difference, but excellent operations makes the biggest difference of all.

Right now the number of mistakes that lead to gas migration remains higher than should be the case if operational excellence was the standard at every gas well.  More leadership is needed within the industry, because the results are not where they should be.

As a result, landowners in leases and regulators need to consider measures to drive more industry focus on preventing gas migration by each and every gas drilling company and all their contractors.
Read the entire post by clicking here.

Are you concerned about the possibility of methane pollution in your water?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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