Where is Marcellus Shale?• Here in Pennsylvania, a one to two MILES beneath our feet, lies a layer of SEDIMENTARY rock known as the Marcellus Shale, which is often said to contain “more natural gas than Saudi Arabia has oil” and natural-gas companies are lining up to drill it all around the state.
What is Marcellus Shale?• The Marcellus shale is a dark shale that formed when a shallow SEA covered Pennsylvania 390 million years ago.• It is named after the town of Marcellus, New York, where it is actually at the surface, not deep down like here in Pittsburgh.• Marcellus Shale contains the fossil fuel NATURAL GAS.
What does Marcellus Shale Look Like?• Shale is made of small pieces of CLAY that have been compressed together.• Marcellus shale contains SPACES between the clay particles. These spaces are called pore spaces and they are where the natural gas is found.
Marcellus Shale under and Electron MicroscopeThe arrows are pointing to the pore spacesin the shale is where the natural gas isfound
How does Natural Gas Get into the Shale?• Similar to the formation of oil, Natural Gas is a fossil fuel that formed when the remains of TINY SEA ANIMALS and algae were compressed under layers of sediment for MILLIONS OF YEARS.• The sediments were transformed into beds of rock, and the organism remains underwent SLOW CHEMICAL CHANGES and formed the natural gas (and sometimes oil).• Overtime, the natural gas moved upwards and settled into the pore spaces of shale.
What are some properties of Natural Gas?• Natural gas is very FLAMMABLE and is mainly composed of methane.• METHANE is a molecule made up of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms, and is referred to as CH4.• The distinctive “rotten egg” smell that we often associate with natural gas is actually added to the gas before it is delivered to your home. It is called “Mercaptan.”• Why is Mercaptan added to natural gas?• MERCAPTAN HELPS TO DETECT GAS LEAKS.
How and Why We Use Natural Gas• When we fuel our car, we put gas in it. However, the gasoline that goes into your vehicle, petroleum, forms in a similar way to but is not the same thing as natural gas.• Natural gas is very useful to us - Your home and water are HEATED and your stove and dryer work because of natural gas! Although currently most of our electricity comes from a coal-burning power plant, natural gas could be used to generate electricity.• Although natural gas is a fossil fuel, and the burning of natural gas produces pollution, it is considered a much CLEANER or less polluting fossil fuel than coal or petroleum.
How do we get Natural Gas out of the Shale?• The extraction of natural gas in Marcellus Shale uses VERTICAL and HORIZONTAL drilling.• A vertical well is drilled into the shale and then turned horizontally(The horizontal sections may be more than 5,000 ft. long!)• Layers of STEEL and cement called “casings” are inserted to support and protect drill holes.
How do we get Natural Gas out of the Shale?• Next, a technique called hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, is used to extract gas.• Fracking forces water, sand and CHEMICALS down the well at high pressures to break open CRACKS or fractures in the shale which release the gas.• Both the gas and wastewater flow back up through the pipes. The gas must be separated from the water and processed before it is piped to your home.
So, where does the drilling happen at?• Many landowners who own the mineral rights to their property are being approached with offers to LEASE their land.• Landowners are given signing bonuses as well as a percentage of the royalties. Initially the landowners who were being approached lived in RURAL areas and owned large plots of land.• However, the industry is moving closer and closer to CITIES.• In 2010, the City of Pittsburgh placed a temporary ban on drilling. Before this, landowners in the Lawrenceville and Lincoln Place neighborhoods in Pittsburgh were approached by Chesapeake Energy, a gas drilling company which wanted to lease their land. You may have noticed the drilling site next to PITTSBURGH MILLS MALL.
So, where does the drilling happen at?The flame in the above picture shows a Marcellusshale well “burning off” impurities. Notice thePittsburgh Mills shopping center right in front of it!
The Debate• Natural gas exploration and extraction from the Marcellus Shale poses both POSITIVE and NEGATIVE impacts for Pennsylvania communities.• On the positive side, there is potential for significant economic benefit and community growth.• On the negative side, there are environmental impacts from drilling gas wells.
The Positive• The Marcellus Shale here could supply Pennsylvania with natural gas ENERGY for many years to come.• According to EnergyFromShale.org, ONE typical Marcellus Natural Gas Well in Pennsylvania produces: – 62 jobs created – $2.8 million in direct economic benefits from gas company purchases (supplies for drilling such as steel) – $1.5 million from industry workers spending wages, or land owners spending royalties from lease payments.
The Positive• So how many natural gas wells are in Pennsylvania?• July 2009-December 2010 resulted in 1,237 wells drille in PA. Using the figures from EnergyFromShale.org: Jobs created: 62 x 1,237 = 76,694 Direct Economic Benefits: 2.8 million x 1,237 = $3.5 billion Wages and Royalties: 1,237 x $1.5 million =$1.9 billion
The Positive• Gas companies do RESTORE the land within nine months of plugging a well.• However, the plugged well and cement pad will still remain indefinitely on the property. Restored Well Site
The Negative• Everyone agrees that Marcellus Shale drilling has created jobs in Pennsylvania, however the amount is a source of CONTROVERSY: The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry says industries related to natural-gas extraction directly and indirectly created just over 13,000 jobs in the state in 2010.• Millions of gallons of WATER (5 million per well) infused with dangerous chemicals are used in fracking.• Much of this water is extremely CONTAMINATED and wastewater treatment plants cannot remove all of the dangerous chemicals. Some of this water can be reused for further drilling, but some cannot.• If there is a gas spill, LEAK, or well blowout (uncontrolled release of gas), gases and chemicals can contaminate ground water and surface water, which contaminates the water you DRINK!
The Negative• For example, on June 3, 2010 a Marcellus Shale well in Clearfield County, PA had a “blow out”. That well spewed NATURAL GAS and drilling wastewater contaminated with toxic CHEMICALS into the air for 16 hours! – "If that accident had occurred in a populated area, like Lincoln Place in Pittsburgh, it would have had a serious impact on human health without a doubt," said Dr. Volz of the University of Pittsburgh, referring to the city neighborhood where a drilling company has been buying up gas drilling rights.• Explosions at drill sites have caused dangerous FIRES which have resulted in people being injured and hospitalized as well.• Other concerns include the impact on land such as acres of forest being but down, and heavy gas company TRUCKS hauling huge amounts of water are noisy which badly damage roads.
Fracking and Earthquakes?• Sometimes wastewater used in fracking cannot be cleaned.• Disposal wells are “waste wells” are located thousands of feet underground, in which used frack wastewater is INJECTED back into the earth.• If done improperly, it can disturb FAULT LINES (“cracks” in the Earth’s crust) to generate EARTHQUAKES.• Earthquakes began happening in 2011 near Youngstown Ohio. Even one that registered 4.0 magnitude on New Year’s day!• OHIO disposes of much of Pennsylvania’s fracking waste in disposal wells.