Emerging Technology Disrupters in Oil, Gas and Data

O'Reilly Report Cover

Last week I learned that WellWiki.org was profiled in O’Reilly’s Oil, Gas and Data report. Written by Daniel Cowles, the O’Reilly report covers a variety of emerging technology disruptors. The report was handed out to attendees at the Strata + Hadoop World big data conference in London.  Below is an excerpt…

O'Reilly Report Page 16

Act 13 Reporting Paper a Top 10 Download Again

According to SSRN, our paper — An Analysis of Unconventional Gas Well Reporting under Pennsylvania’s Act 13 of 2012 — is once again a top 10 download in several categories, including:

The paper was published in the December issue of Environmental Practice and analyzes the extent to which the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) complied with its reporting requirements under Act 13. Using publicly available data, we find that the DEP likely omitted between 15,300 and 25,100 unconventional gas wells from its Act 13 report. Left uncorrected, we estimate that Pennsylvania’s state, county, and municipal governments could forfeit fees of $205-$303 million in 2012 and up to $0.75-$1.85 billion cumulatively over the expected life of these wells. We propose the implementation of a relational database and geographic information system as a way for the DEP to fulfill its Act 13 obligations.

The Ashcroft #1

Another example of a spud unconventional gas well omitted from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Act 13 report, this one in the West Falls Formation.

Ashcroft #1

In December 1975, St. Joe Petroleum Corporation spud the Richard J. Ashcroft #1 well in Greene Township, Beaver County, ultimately drilling to a total depth of 7,519 feet in the Queenston Shale (Heyman & Cozart, 1978). The Ashcroft #1 was originally drilled as a test of the Lower Silurian Medina Group (Piotrowski & Harper, 1979), and reportedly completed on December 6, 1975. Although there was a slight show of gas, the well was initially shut-in, pending further production tests (Heyman & Cozart, 1978). The well was later plugged back, and, on February 19, 1976, was reportedly completed in the Devonian Rhinestreet shale (Piotrowski & Harper, 1979). However, after being hydraulically fractured, there was no sustained flow, and as of 1979, the well was again reported as shut-in (Piotrowski & Harper, 1979). The Ashcroft #1 was assigned Permit #BEA-20060 (Heyman & Cozart, 1978), now API #37-007-20060 (Ryder, 2004; Ryder et al., 2012; Trippi & Crangle, 2009). See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Ashcroft #1 Gamma Ray Log 

ashcroftlog

Source: Trippi & Crangle, 2009

References

Heyman, L., & Cozart, C. L. 1978. Oil and Gas Developments in Pennsylvania in 1977. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Fourth Series, Progress Report 191.

Piotrowski, R. G., & Harper, J. A. 1979. Black Shale and Sandstone Facies of the Devonian “Catskill” Clastic Wedge in the Subsurface of Western Pennsylvania. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy.

Ryder, R. T. 2004. Stratigraphic Framework and Depositional Sequences in the Lower Silurian Regional Oil and Gas Accumulation, Appalachian Basin: From Ashland County, Ohio, through Southwestern Pennsylvania, to Preston County, West Virginia. Washington, DC: U.S. Geological Survey, Geologic Investigations Series, Map I-2810.

Ryder, R. T., Trippi, M. H., Swezey, C. S., Crangle, R. D., Jr., Hope, R. S., Rowan, E. L., et al. 2012. Geologic Cross Section C–C’ through the Appalachian Basin From Erie County, North-Central Ohio, to the Valley and Ridge Province, Bedford County, South-Central Pennsylvania. Washington, DC: U.S. Geological Survey, Scientific Investigations Map 3172.

Trippi, M. H., & Crangle, R. D., Jr. 2009. Log ASCII Standard (LAS) Files for Geophysical (Gamma Ray) Wireline Well Logs and Their Application to Geologic Cross Section C-C’ through the Central Appalachian Basin. Washington, DC: U.S. Geological Survey, Open File Report 2009-1021.

The Fleck #1

Another example of a spud unconventional gas well omitted from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Act 13 report, this one in the West Falls Formation.

Fleck #1

In 1975, Peoples Natural Gas Company spud the James Fleck #1 in Sandy Creek Township, Mercer County, reaching a total depth of 9,246 feet in “Precambrian granite” (Lytle et al., 1977: 23). The well was plugged back and fractured in the Lower Silurian Medina Group from 4,990 to 5,040 feet, discovering the Fleck Pool in the Sheakleyville Field (Lytle et al., 1977). In 1977, the Pennsylvania Geological Survey reported two different completion dates for this well: August 27, 1975, and March 12, 1976, creating indeterminacy as to when these events took place (Lytle et al., 1977). Regardless, initial production was reportedly 231 Mcfgpd, and the well was assigned Permit #MER-20116 (Lytle et al., 1977), or API #37-085-20116 under current nomenclature (Baranoski, 2002). The well was then shut-in (Heyman & Cozart, 1978). According to later reports, “although a significant amount of gas was encountered, it was not deemed sufficient to justify the expense of putting the well on line” (Harper & Abel, 1979: 41).

Around this same time, the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) had launched a five-year study of Devonian organic-rich shales in the Appalachian Basin (Piotrowski & Krajewski, 1977).[1] As it relates to the James Fleck #1, in addition to production from the Medina Group, well logs indicated gas production in so-called Zone I facies, which were then thought to be “approximately equivalent to the Rhine Street Shale of New York” (Piotrowski & Krajewski, 1977: 41). Seizing upon this potential, Peoples Natural Gas Company and the ERDA began negotiating the possibility of using the James Fleck #1 to test the West Falls Formation (Frohne, 1978; Piotrowski & Krajewski, 1977).

These negotiations succeeded, and in March 1978, the newly formed U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) “attempted to stimulate the Rhinestreet facies … by means of a massive hydraulic fracturing treatment” (Harper & Abel, 1979: 41). In preparation for the treatment, the Devonian Shale was perforated with 50 holes between 3,112 and 3,360 feet deep (Frohne, 1978). The planned hydraulic fracturing treatment called for 270,000 gallons of nitrogen-water foam fracturing fluid, 324,000 pounds of sand proppant, and 12 major pieces of fracturing equipment (Frohne, 1978). Additionally, 6 gallons of surfactant, 1 gallon of clay stabilizer, and 44 pounds of calcium chloride per thousand gallons of water were injected with the foam (Frohne, 1978). The job also included 2,000 pounds of flaked benzoic acid to be used as a temporary diverting agent to insure that the entire perforated interval accepted some fracturing fluid (Frohne, 1978). See Table 1 for complete specifications of the planned massive hydraulic fracture treatment.

Table 1. Fleck #1 Massive Hydraulic Fracture Treatment Schedule

fleckmhf

Source: Frohne, 1978

However, during the hydraulic fracturing treatment, unexpectedly high pressures were encountered, as well as a mechanical packer problem, resulting in a catastrophic downhole casing failure (Frohne, 1978). During the curtailed foam frac operation, 1,582,000 SCF of nitrogen gas, 18,500 gallons of water, and 19,700 pounds of sand had been pumped into the well, most of which then rapidly escaped from the fractured interval and returned to the surface. During the flowback, a substantial amount of sand proppant was sprayed over the backside of the well location. Trees about 30 to 50 yards away had coats of sand plastered on trunks and branches, and there was a solid layer of sand over the rear quadrant of the well site (see Figure 1). “This served to illustrate the potential hazards associated with any stimulation effort, as well as the need for good wellhead arrangement and spectator control” (Frohne, 1978: 5).

Figure 1. Fleck #1 Massive Hydraulic Fracture Treatment Schematic

fleckdiagram

Source: Frohne, 1978

Despite extensive remedial efforts, the treatment had to be aborted, and the well was plugged and abandoned (Frohne, 1978; Piotrowski, Cozart, Heyman, Harper, & Abel, 1979; Piotrowski & Harper, 1979). Following these events, the Pennsylvania Geological Survey published another completion record for this well, dated March 16, 1978 (Piotrowski et al., 1979).


[1] The ERDA was created on Oct 17, 1974 as part of the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974. On October 1, 1977, the ERDA was combined with the Federal Energy Administration to form the United States Department of Energy.

References

Baranoski, M. T. 2002. Structure Contour Map on the Precambrian Unconformity Surface in Ohio and Related Basement Features. Columbus, OH: Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Frohne, K.-H. 1978. Technical Assessment: Massive Foam Stimulation Attempt in Mercer Co., Pa. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy.

Harper, J. A., & Abel, K. D. 1979. Devonian Shale Research in Pennsylvania: An Update. In R. G. Piotrowski, C. L. Cozart, L. Heyman, J. A. Harper, & K. D. Abel (Eds.), Oil and Gas Developments in Pennsylvania in 1978: 34–43. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Fourth Series, Progress Report 192.

Heyman, L., & Cozart, C. L. 1978. Oil and Gas Developments in Pennsylvania in 1977. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Fourth Series, Progress Report 191.

Lytle, W. S., Heyman, L., Piotrowski, R. G., & Krajewski, S. A. 1977. Oil and Gas Developments in Pennsylvania in 1976. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Fourth Series, Progress Report 190.

Piotrowski, R. G., Cozart, C. L., Heyman, L., Harper, J. A., & Abel, K. D. 1979. Oil and Gas Developments in Pennsylvania in 1978. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Fourth Series, Progress Report 192.

Piotrowski, R. G., & Harper, J. A. 1979. Black Shale and Sandstone Facies of the Devonian “Catskill” Clastic Wedge in the Subsurface of Western Pennsylvania. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy.

Piotrowski, R. G., & Krajewski, S. A. 1977. Devonian Shale Research in Pennsylvania. In W. S. Lytle, L. Heyman, R. G. Piotrowski, & S. A. Krajewski (Eds.), Oil and Gas Developments in Pennsylvania in 1976: 33–42. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Fourth Series, Progress Report 190.

The Metropolitan Industry #1

Another example of a spud unconventional gas well omitted from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Act 13 report, this one in the West Falls Formation.

Metropolitan Industry #1

In 1975, Quaker State Oil Refining Corporation completed the Metropolitan Industry #1 in Darlington Township, Beaver County, as a test of the Lower Silurian Medina Group (Harper & Abel, 1979; Lytle, Piotrowski, & Heyman, 1976; Piotrowski & Harper, 1979). The well was drilled to a total depth of 6,666 feet in the Queenston Shale (Lytle, Heyman, Piotrowski, & Krajewski, 1977; Lytle, Piotrowski, et al., 1976). After no gas was encountered in the Medina, the well was plugged back to test the Upper Devonian shale (Harper & Abel, 1979; Lytle, Piotrowski, et al., 1976). There was no natural production from the shale, but after hydraulic fracturing from just above the Onondaga limestone to above the Tully limestone the well initially produced 150 Mcfgepd (Harper & Abel, 1979; Lytle et al., 1977; Lytle, Piotrowski, et al., 1976; Piotrowski & Harper, 1979).

At the time, the Pennsylvania Geological Survey claimed the well “could be a most significant discovery” (Lytle, Piotrowski, et al., 1976: 25), and credited it with discovering the Darlington Field. This enthusiasm proved to be short lived, however, as production declined each day, and by the end of 30 days the well was non-productive (Lytle et al., 1977). “When shut-in, pressure would build up, but on opening up the well, it would blow off to nothing in a short time. Evidently, there was very little original fracture porosity. Gas accumulated mainly in fractures induced when the well was completed by hydraulic fracturing” (Lytle et al., 1977: 23). The well was eventually plugged and abandoned (Piotrowski & Harper, 1979).

Despite being completed on February 6, 1975, “the [well] record was not received until 1976” (Lytle, Piotrowski, et al., 1976: 25–26). In 1977, some two years after it had been completed, the state published the well record (Lytle et al., 1977). The well was originally assigned Permit #BEA-20054 (Lytle et al., 1977). Under current nomenclature, the Metropolitan Industry #1 is known as API #37-007-20054 (Hosterman & Whitlow, 1983; Ryder et al., 2012).

Initially, the Metropolitan Industry #1 was described as having been completed in the Upper Devonian shale (Lytle, Piotrowski, et al., 1976). The following year the Pennsylvania Geological Survey reported the well produced from so-called Zone I facies, “the second major black shale unit in Pennsylvania” (see Figure 1), which was thought to be “approximately equivalent to the Rhine Street Shale of New York” (Piotrowski & Krajewski, 1977: 41). By 1978, the Metropolitan Industry #1 was considered to produce from the “Rhinestreet shale facies” (Harper & Abel, 1979: 38). Finally, by 1979, it was shown that the well completed and produced from the West Falls, Sonyea, and Genesse Formations (see Figure 2) (Piotrowski & Harper, 1979).

Figure 1. Upper Devonian Cross Section Circa 1977

upperdevonian1977

Source: Piotrowski & Krajewski, 1977

Figure 2. Metropolitan Industry #1 Combined Well Logs

metro1logs

Source: Piotrowski & Harper, 1979

References

Harper, J. A., & Abel, K. D. 1979. Devonian Shale Research in Pennsylvania: An Update. In R. G. Piotrowski, C. L. Cozart, L. Heyman, J. A. Harper, & K. D. Abel (Eds.), Oil and Gas Developments in Pennsylvania in 1978: 34–43. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Fourth Series, Progress Report 192.

Hosterman, J. W., & Whitlow, S. I. 1983. Clay Mineralogy of Devonian Shales in the Appalachian Basin. Washington, DC: U.S. Geological Survey.

Lytle, W. S., Heyman, L., Piotrowski, R. G., & Krajewski, S. A. 1977. Oil and Gas Developments in Pennsylvania in 1976. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Fourth Series, Progress Report 190.

Lytle, W. S., Piotrowski, R. G., & Heyman, L. 1976. Oil and Gas Developments in Pennsylvania in 1975. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Fourth Series, Progress Report 189.

Piotrowski, R. G., & Harper, J. A. 1979. Black Shale and Sandstone Facies of the Devonian “Catskill” Clastic Wedge in the Subsurface of Western Pennsylvania. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Energy.

Piotrowski, R. G., & Krajewski, S. A. 1977. Devonian Shale Research in Pennsylvania. In W. S. Lytle, L. Heyman, R. G. Piotrowski, & S. A. Krajewski (Eds.), Oil and Gas Developments in Pennsylvania in 1976: 33–42. Harrisburg, PA: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, Fourth Series, Progress Report 190.

Ryder, R. T., Trippi, M. H., Swezey, C. S., Crangle, R. D., Jr., Hope, R. S., Rowan, E. L., et al. 2012. Geologic Cross Section C–C’ through the Appalachian Basin From Erie County, North-Central Ohio, to the Valley and Ridge Province, Bedford County, South-Central Pennsylvania. Washington, DC: U.S. Geological Survey, Scientific Investigations Map 3172.

Some Recent Unconventional Shale Research

Recently, I’ve stumbled across a growing number of studies related to various aspects of unconventional shale drilling and hydraulic fracturing, a number of which are specific to the Marcellus Formation. Below are a few highlights:

Estimation of Regional Air-Quality Damages from Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Extraction in Pennsylvania, by Aviva Litovitz, Aimee Curtright, Shmuel Abramzon, Nicholas Burger and Constantine Samaras, in Environmental Research Letters

The Relationship between Marcellus Shale Gas Development in Pennsylvania and Local Perceptions of Risk and Opportunity, by Kai A. Schafft, Yetkin Borlu, and Leland Glenna, in Rural Sociology

Source Signature of Volatile Organic Compounds from Oil and Natural Gas Operations in Northeastern Colorado, by J. B. Gilman, B. M. Lerner, W. C. Kuster, and J. A. de Gouw, in Environmental Science & Technology

Analysis of BTEX Groundwater Concentration from Surface Spills Associated with Hydraulic Fracturing Operations, by Sherilyn A. Gross, Heather J. Avens, Amber M. Banducci, Jennifer Sahmel, Julie M. Panko, and Brooke E. Tvermoes, in Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association

Generation, Transport, and Disposal of Wastewater Associated with Marcellus Shale Gas Development, by Brian D. Lutz, Aurana N. Lewis, and Martin W. Doyle, in Water Resources Research

These studies are all in addition to the 13 articles published as part of Environmental Practice’s December 2012 special issue on hydraulic fracturing.

Another Early Rhinestreet Well

A few months ago I wrote a series of posts about early unconventional wells that appear to have been omitted from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Act 13 report, contrary to requirements.

Today I stumbled across another early Rhinestreet Shale well. According to Tarr (1980, p. 4), in November 1979, in the the northeastern portion of the Lake Erie shoreline the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (DER), the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the Morgantown Energy Technology Center (METC) “completed the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania [COP], 3 DER Presque Isle State Park, Permit #ERI-20846 [now 37-049-20846] in the Devonian Shale interval 117-1247.5′. The well was bottomed at a total depth of 1276 ft in the Middle Devonian Onondaga Limestone. The well flowed 160 Mcfpd natural from the open hole. Reservoir pressure was 170# psig after being shut-in 33 days. Gas production was obtained from the interval 945-1040 ft in the Upper Devonian Rhinestreet Shale.” In other words, this well qualifies an unconventional gas well under Act 13.

As of 1994, ERI-20846 was one of two gas wells in Presque Isle State Park, then known as the “Marina” well. According to a DER report, the Marina well was completed on October 10, 1979, at a depth of 1,276 feet. It was estimated to heat several buildings (marina, manager’s home, and administration building) for 30 to 40 years. The DER provided $23,000 towards the $200,000 project. This well last reported production in 2006. It was not listed in the DEP’s Act 13 report of spud unconventional gas wells.

The same report noted that the second well — the Beach #7 — was drilled in 1910 by the City of Erie at a depth of 3,572 feet. It was used to run machinery at waterworks park and later abandoned in the 1920s. However, the well was apparently not plugged.

In 1970, a black, foul-smelling surface discharge was reported in the Beach 7 well area. The discharge resulted in the release of hydrogen sulfide gas into the air and other hazardous substances into the soil and shallow ground water near the well. As the odors continued, DER uncovered the pavement overlying the discharge in 1979, and identified the well as the source of the discharge. The discharge was found to be emanating from a deep underground formation called the Bass Island formation.

From 1964 to 1971, over one-billion, ninety-million gallons of wood pulping wastes were injected into the Bass Island formation by the Hammermill Paper Company at wells located approximately four miles to the east of the Presque Isle State Park 7 well. An explanation is that the injected wood pulping wastes flowed along the Bass Island formation and surfaced at the Beach 7 well. [The] Beach 7 well was shut off and plugged in April 15, 1980 to 900 feet of the surface. At that time a substantial amount of gas was found near the surface that did have potential for use.

In September 1983, the Beach 7 well was placed on EPA’s National Priorities List. The National Priorities List consists of hazardous sites across the country where cleanup need’s are so serious as to warrant designation as a Superfund site. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as the “Superfund,” was passed by Congress in 1980. The Act addresses the nationwide problem of uncontrolled hazardous sites.

In 1992, EPA delisted the well from the National Priorities List. Restoration work was done on the site.

So, according to this report, wastes injected into a disposal well four miles away traveled from the Bass Island Formation, (which is of Upper Silurian age, and thus, much older and stratigraphically lower than the Marcellus Formation), and a depth of 3,500+ feet, through numerous intervening formations, before finally migrating up the Beach #7 well, with a bottom depth of ~1300 feet. In other words, here is at least one example that suggests fracking fluids may be able to travel laterally and vertically without much difficulty!

Fracked Housing?

Lately I’ve encountered a few stories about the effects of unconventional natural gas development on housing and related indicators.

In a story from February 2012, NPR reports that the flood of new oil and gas workers is causing a housing crunch in some Pennsylvania communities, as locals get priced out of the rental market. Some at the bottom are finding themselves homeless.

Marcellus Natural Gas Development’s Effect on Housing in Pennsylvania, a report commissioned by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA), looks at the effects the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry has had on housing across Pennsylvania. The authors of the report — Jonathan Williamson and Bonita Kolb — conducted interviews with more than 70 stakeholders including local elected officials, county and municipal planners, housing authority officials, social service agency representatives, landlords, developers, realtors, gas company representatives and new residents. The report focuses on on four broad issues: 1) rental housing, 2) owner-occupied housing, 3) housing affordability and availability, and 4) the capacity of the development community to meet housing demand.

More recently, the PHFA hosted a day-long housing summit at Lycoming College. The summit began with an update of the 2011 study. Since then, Williamson and Kolb have found that the impact of housing shortages are heaviest on those whose housing situation was already at greatest at risk prior to the gas industry growth.

Another article tells the story of the Riverdale Mobile Home Village, a 12-acre parcel along the Susquehanna River near Jersey Shore, Pennsylvania. In February, Aqua PVR (a division of Aqua America) bought the trailer park for $550,000 — a price that “may have been a bargain” — at which point it sent eviction notices to the occupants of all 32 units. The company plans to tear down the park to build a water pumping facility. It has permission from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission to withdraw three million gallons of water a day from the Susquehanna River. From there the water will be sold for use in hydraulic fracturing operations.

DEP May Have Omitted at Least $49 Million in Medina Group Unconventional Well Fees

This post continues my series on unconventional wells that have been omitted from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Act 13 reporting, with a look at wells in the Medina Group. In Northwestern Pennsylvania the Medina Group consists of three lower Silurian-aged members: Grimsby Sandstone, Cabot Head Shale, and Whirlpool Sandstone.

Figure 36 of Oil and Gas Developments in Pennsylvania in 1987 provides summarized records of 391 well completions that penetrated formations of Middle Devonian age or older (i.e., to the Marcellus Formation or lower). The majority of these wells were categorized as producing from the Medina Group. Details on the depths to and thicknesses of each of these three members, together with the depths of the producing interval, were provided for approximately 350 Medina Group completions. Using these data it is simple (if tedious) to calculate whether or not the Cabot Head Shale was completed. If my math is correct, 198 out of 350 Medina Group wells were completed in the Cabot Head Shale.

The Appalachian Basin Tight Gas Reservoirs Project, a three-year project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and undertaken by the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey and the Pennsylvania Geological and Topographic Survey, reported on 10,906 Medina completions in Pennsylvania through approximately 2007. Assuming the ratio of Cabot Head Shale to Medina Group wells from 1987 holds for other time periods, this would suggest approximately 6,170 Cabot Head Shale completions.

This is significant, because any well completed in the Cabot Head Shale meets Act 13′s definition of an unconventional well, and thus, is required to pay unconventional impact fees. Assuming these wells were all vertical, that would be a fee of at least $8,000 for 2011, or a total of more than $49 million in impact fees due under Act 13. And yet, none of these wells were included in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s reports to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission as required by Act 13.

As startling as this oversight is, the above estimate likely understates the number of Medina Group wells liable for unconventional impact fees. First, I have been overly conservative in my calculations —  only including wells that explicitly completed the Cabot Head Shale. In many cases the wells reported in 1987 were completed to within a foot or so of the Cabot Head Shale. Because the Medina is generally more than 2,000 feet below the surface, any hydraulic fracturing of the Grimsby Sandstone or the Whirlpool Sandstone will grow vertically, and therefore, penetrate and produce from the Cabot Head Shale. In that case, the number of unconventional wells may include every Medina Group well ever completed. If so, the impact fees due under Act 13 would grow to more than $87 million.

Second, I have only reported on completed wells, but Act 13 requires that impact fees be paid on all spud unconventional wells. A well is spud the moment drilling begins. As a consequence, the number of spud wells is likely to be meaningfully higher than the number of completed wells, but so far I have not found a data source that would allow me to reliably estimate the ratio of spud wells to completed wells for the Medina Group during this time period. Whatever this ratio turns out to be, it simply adds to the magnitude of the reporting failures by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Third, to estimate the total population of Medina Group wells I used the well database generated by the Appalachian Basin Tight Gas Reservoirs Project. But it is likely that this is actually not the population of Medina wells, but only a sample of them. To the extent that more than 10,906 Medina wells were spud in Pennsylvania in the Cabot Head Shale, then my estimate of the impact fees due is too low.

In sum, my analysis suggests the operators of Medina Group wells collectively owe a minimum of $49 million to $87 million in unconventional well impact fees under Act 13, and the total could be much higher. And yet none of these wells has been reported as required by the Act.

More Early Unconventional Wells

This post continues my series on unconventional wells that have been omitted from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Act 13 reporting, with a look back at some wells from 1979-1981.

Commenting on this period, Patchen et al. (1982: 1958) write: “The Devonion shales of Pennsylvania, which have produced gas (normally in uncommercial quantities) since 1860, were the target of several successful drilling attempts in 1981.” These drilling attempts resulted in “three new pools discovered in the deeper shale zones, including the Upper Devonian West Falls, Sonyea, and Genessee formations, and the Middle Devonian Marcellus Formation.”

According to the Pennsylvania Geological Survey’s Subsurface Rock Correlation Diagram (Carter, 2007), the West Falls Formation includes the Rhinestreet Shale; the Sonyea Formation includes the Middlesex Shale; the Genessee Formation includes both the Geneseo Shale and the Burket Shale; and of course, the Marcellus Formation includes the Marcellus Shale. All five of these shales are stratigraphically below the Elk Sandstone, and thus, any wells drilled into these formations are subject to unconventional gas well fees under Act 13, CHAPTER 23 § 2302.

One of these wells was the Combustion Engineering Fee #1 well (Permit #003-20980), drilled in Allegheny County on March 25, 1979, and completed that year in the Marcellus and Genesse formations. According the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection’s Oil and Gas Reporting website, this well was still producing gas 365 days a year in 2005, 2007 and 2008. But contrary to Patchen et al.’s (1982) report, the well is reported as “N” in the Marcellus Well field.

UPDATE: On February 4, 2015, I received the following email about the Combustion Engineering Fee #1 well.

Joel – Per this article you wrote I was the PM on the job working for Combustion Engineering at the time, and I somehow found this article. The well was fully DOE funded, the only Marcellus we did on it was to do one fracture, at 7,509 feet, that number sticks with me, take a sample to Mellon Institute for testing, and we then re-fractured at the higher sands in order to get enough gas out to heat the facility. The shale was way too tight for 1979 technology! Just thought you may want to know since your article notes there is really no record of Marcellus Production.
Thanks – Bob Necciai

Another two wells were drilled in Clarion County: the Conner #1 well (Permit #031-2076) and the Minich #2 (Permit #031-20864). Both wells were drilled by Gearhart and Odell and completed in the West Falls, Sonyea and Genessee formations (meaning the Rhinestreet, Middlesex, Geneseo and Burket shales). According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection Oil and Gas Reporting website, the Conner #1 produced gas in 2002, 2004 and 2005. However, these wells were not reported to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission by the Department as required by Act 13. I’ve added all three wells to the spreadsheet of missing Act 13 unconventional wells.

Finally, Patchen et al. (1982: 1980) report on three failed exploratory wells drilled to the Helderberg Group and another drilled to the Hamilton Group. Very possibly, these four wells are also liable for Act 13 unconventional gas well fees. The Hamilton Group includes the Marcellus Shale and the Helderberg Group includes the Mandata Shale. These wells included Permits MCK-39885, SOM-20103, TIO-20104 and WES-21705.