Authorities eye Marcellus wells in gas leaks

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 10 -- Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said it is continuing to investigate the source of methane detected in the Susquehanna River and at six private water wells in Wilmont Township, Bradford County.

“Chesapeake Energy has been working at the direction of DEP to determine the source or sources of the stray gas,” said DEP Secretary John Hanger. “Gas migration is a serious, potentially dangerous problem. Chesapeake must stop the gas from migrating.”

DEP said Chesapeake has six Marcellus shale gas wells on well pads 2-3 miles northwest of the Susquehanna River.

“These wells are believed to be the source of stray gas that was detected on Aug. 4 at a residence,” DEP said.

DEP said it issued a notice of violation to Chesapeake and required it to implement a remediation plan. “Progress has been made, but, to date, this violation has not yet been fully resolved,” DEP said.

While neither DEP nor Chesapeake has been able to conclusively show that the wells are the source, DEP considers them “the most likely” source.

The wells were drilled between December 2009 and March 2010 but have not been fractured and are not producing Marcellus gas. Controversy over hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus shale has arisen in Pennsylvania and New York.

DEP said it first received information about water bubbles in the Susquehanna River late on Sept. 2, with additional reports received on Sept. 3 of bubbling in two private drinking water wells nearby. In response, DEP sent two teams of inspectors to investigate the source of stray gas on Sept. 3.

One team of DEP inspectors went to the Susquehanna River near Sugar Run, where bubbling had been reported. DEP collected samples of the gas for analysis to identify the source. Results are expected within 2 weeks.

DEP and Chesapeake have taken gas samples from the water and gas wells.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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