Eastern Section Meeting

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Facilitating Shale Play Development and Water Management - Meeting the Need for Brine Disposal Wells in Pennsylvania

Abstract

Marcellus Shale exploration and production operations in Pennsylvania generate large quantities of flowback and produced water. With continued Marcellus shale development, as well as Geneseo/Burket Shale and Utica Shale exploration, Pennsylvania is poised to be a major player in shale development for decades to come. Although there is a strong increasing trend in recycling, not all flowback and produced waters can be cost-effectively recycled due to water chemistry, a specific company's lack of a nearby new well or pad at which the water can be recycled and other factors. Brine disposal wells have an important role to play in managing such waters in a cost-effective and environmentally protective manner. The need for brine disposal wells in Pennsylvania is expected to increase as the Marcellus and other shale plays mature and potentially tens of thousands of new wells begin generating produced water on a daily basis. Although currently there are only seven permitted brine disposal wells operating in Pennsylvania, with only two of these being commercial wells, there is potential to develop many additional brine disposal wells within or near Marcellus Shale fields and other producing areas.

The authors will provide an overview of the status of currently permitted brine disposal wells in Pennsylvania and nearby states, most of which have substantially more wells than Pennsylvania. Potential target formations for brine disposal in Pennsylvania will be discussed along with procedures for identifying and evaluating specific candidate injection well sites. An overview of EPA brine disposal well permit application procedures will also be presented along with a summary of well construction and operating requirements. A case study on the Bear Lake Properties commercial injection well facility, which injects into depleted Medina/Whirlpool Sandstone intervals, will be included. Ranges in capital and operation and maintenance (O&M) costs and the economics of utilizing brine disposal wells relative to other available options (e.g., water treatment plants) will also be discussed.