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WVONGA President comments on Marcellus wells in region

Last week, an investigation into the use and disposal of water at the Normantown 1 well site, as well as the success of the venture, was presented. Upon taking the advice of Noble Energy's Community and Media Relations Manager Stacey Brodak to contact someone within the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, more information has become available. 

In a telephone interview last week with WVONGA President Corky DeMarco, he asserted that the deep gas in this area was very good.

DeMarco said that the gas in this area is "over-pressurized" because of the way the Marcellus shale is squeezed in between two layers of limestone. The area of high pressure is thought to be from Southern PA down to about where Rt. 33 runs across the map.

"[Drillers in West Virginia] are getting huge returns on horizontal drilling," DeMarco said. "That's why you're seeing compressor stations being built and upgraded all over Northern WV."

While he couldn't comment specifically on the Normantown 1 well, he did say it was within the area of this over-pressurized gas. To put it into understandable terms, DeMarco explained that drillers are getting the same results in one day that a regular, vertical well would produce in a year.

He noted that gas was no longer being moved from the Gulf of Mexico to supply the North Eastern United States. The gas being produced from the Marcellus wells was supplying the region now.

"Manufacturing is coming back to the [United] States because of this," said DeMarco. "We have the cheapest utilities in the world. Japan pays $17 for 1,000 cubic feet of gas. We only pay $4.41."

"Our future is bright for a long time here," he went on to say. "We are the energy backbone of the country."

In regard to water usage, Mr. DeMarco said that drillers were reusing almost 100% of the water that comes back up during the fracturing process. He said that most of the dirty water was disposed of in injection wells in Ohio.

An article by Spencer Hunt, which appeared in the Sept. 23, 2013 edition of The Columbus Dispatch discussed the search for deep well injection sites. According to his reporting, "Scientists at the Batelle Memorial Institute in Columbus are leading a search for sites were companies can pump fracking waste underground in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia."

The senior researcher for Batelle commented concerning injection capacity, saying, "It's in Ohio, where more than 14.2 million barrels of fracking fluids and related waste from oil and gas wells were pumped into 190 disposal wells last year.
That was a 12% increase over 2011." West Virginia, at that time, had 63 disposal wells.

"Batelle has done extensive work in West Virginia to see whether deep rock formations could contain injected carbon dioxide. Many of the rock formations that could hold carbon dioxide also should hold fracking waste," the senior researcher said.

As the search for additional injection sites continues, more information is becoming available concerning about the wastewater that is being stored in above ground pools, storage tanks and in the deep injection wells.

A Jan. 2, 2014 news release from the West Virginia News Service titled "Dangerous Elements Occur Naturally in Fracking Brine" indicates that the level of concern for West Virginians is rising. The article sites a new study conducted by Avner Vengosh, a professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University, and his colleagues. They reported substantially higher than normal levels of radioactive waste in the effluent water processed from the hydraulic fracturing in the Marcellus Shale area of Pennsylvania.

While many of radioactive materials are naturally occurring many miles below the earth's surface, when the drilling brine and fracking fluid come back out of the ground, they are carrying these potentially harmful materials with them. The concern is that as the radioactive elements accumulate above the ground and mix with the ground water, tolerable levels for plant and animal life will be surpassed.

Vengosh's statements agree with what Mr. DeMarco said in that, "Vengosh agreed that more [water] is being recycled [then disposed of]." However, he went on to point out that the waste water is very loosely regulated, and "in many states its chemical content is not even monitored."

He also mentioned that "there's no need for technological breakthroughs." All the technology is currently available to treat the water and clean it up. "The only question is cost," Vengosh said.

There is one thing that West Virginians can be sure of: fracking is not going away. More drilling permits are being applied for every day and Mr. DeMarco said that some companies are even considering going back to the old vertical well sites and drilling again, using the fracturing method this time. The prospects for natural gas development in this area are incredible.

"It's an evolving industry," said DeMarco. "This drilling technique has been used since late 2008 to early 2009 and best management practices change as more information becomes available." Gas companies work hard to stay in compliance with regulations, while still producing the energy that the country needs and wants at a low price.

Hopefully, all involved parties will work together to ensure the safety of citizens and protection for the Nation's water supply, while, at the same time, providing the energy resources humans have become increasingly dependent on.