Marcellus Drilling Visualized

Today the Penn State Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research posted a series of animated visuals based on data from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. For example, the number of permits issued has climbed from 99 in 2007, to 519 in 2008, to 1,985 in 2009, to 2,108 through the first 8 months of 2010 — a total of 4,711 permits.

Based on data released by Range Resources on the chemical cocktail used, as well as data from Chesapeake Energy on the 5.6 million gallons of water used during drilling and fracking, I estimate that some 30,000 pounds of hazardous and/or toxic chemicals are required per well.  Others have put the quantity at 80,000 pounds. At this point, given the general lack of regulation and disclosure, there is necessarily some uncertainty in the estimates. Nonetheless, even using my lower estimate, these permitted wells are likely to result in the injection of something like 141 million pounds of hazardous and/or toxic chemicals into the ground. It is believed that somewhere between 50% and 85% of these chemicals never come back out again, but instead remain in the ground. It is a matter of some controversy as to whether they might effect the water table. Having just seen GASLAND on Sunday night, it strains the limits of credibility to assert that such contamination of water never happens.

Of course, at the present time, all of the above is entirely legal. But even considering the lax regulatory environment, the industry has managed to rack up plenty of violations. In the last 2-1/2 years, Marcellus Well drillers were cited for more than 1,600 violations, a rate of more than 1.5 per day.