Natural Gas Development in the Marcellus Shale: Environmental Footprints and Mitigation Measures

Open Access
Olawoyin, Richard
Graduate Program:
Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering
Master of Science
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 23, 2011
Committee Members:
  • John Wang+ Samuel Oyewole, Thesis Advisor
  • Yilin Wang, Thesis Advisor
  • Samuel Oyewole, Thesis Advisor
  • tubing
  • casing
  • drilling
  • Gas
  • Shale
  • Marcellus
  • Severity rate
  • Incident rate
  • Violations
  • Operators
  • Hydraulic Fracturing
  • groundwater
  • contamination
The development of shale gas formations has been a focused aspect of onshore exploration and production in recent years. The process of getting this done is intensive and involves risk to the workers and residents of the communities where these operations are carried out. It has been predicted by The U.S. Energy Information Administration that unconventional sources such as the Marcellus Shale gas play will account for 50% of natural gas production by 2030 (US EIA, 2007).This projection suggests that there will be more drilling and hydraulic fracturing activities carried out with several factors at risk and huge consequential environmental effects. These risks include (1) contamination by drilling waste (muds, flow-back water, produced water etc.) also emissions from drilling sites and runoffs (2) natural gas leaks and oil spills (3) direct effects on human health. Statistics have shown that 0.5-1% of wells drilled for exploration result in blowout. The causes of these risks are identified to be due to (1) Violations (2) Operational Pollution (accidental spills and leaks (3) Operators policy (inefficient production practices and waste management policies). In the quest of addressing this concern, an extensive review of literatures with experimental findings was done, and also the potential effect of these activities on the environment was evaluated with statistical analysis (SAS) of all violations by operators in Pennsylvania from January 2008 to November 2010. Doubly repeated measure ANCOVA was used to validate the most significant causes of environmental damage and most violators. The lower 25% of all violations fall below the weighted average of 4, while the upper 25% fall between weighted averages of 6-8. The category effect and interaction effect were used to proof the usefulness of the developed model, the level of significance of category interactions were analyzed, out of 65 operators, only 27 of them were found to have p-values < 0.05, which shows they are significantly different in comparison. The most significant incidents are rank 3, 5,9,10, which account for 67% of all the violations. These data reflect several environmental concerns that are currently prevalent in the Marcellus area. This research work identifies environmental incidences, causes and prevention in the Marcellus gas play. The research presents guidelines for feasible options to minimizing environmental risks and human health effects on the people of the commonwealth. Recommendations on how to mitigate these impending problems were proffered.