Chesapeake Back At Work in Pennsylvania

Wheeling WV  Intelligencer
17 May 2011
By Casey Junkins Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING - Chesapeake Energy is fracking in Pennsylvania again, following a temporary stoppage due to an accident that released thousands of gallons of drilling fluids.

"An equipment failure of this type is extremely rare in the industry and is the first valve flange failure of this magnitude in more than 15,000 wells Chesapeake has completed since its founding in 1989," a statement by the Oklahoma City-based corporation notes. "We are confident that this was an isolated incident and that all wellhead equipment and connections are fully functional and structurally sound."

Chesapeake - which voluntarily halted its Keystone State fracking operations following the April 19 wellhead failure in Bradford County, Pa. - is the Upper Ohio Valley's most active natural gas drilling company. The driller has been working with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to assess damage to farm fields and bodies of water from the spill.

"The most significant impact occurred at a small farm pond near the location, which was drained in coordination with the PA DEP, and the pond water was trucked to a Chesapeake waste water recycling facility. Area landowners' private water wells continue to be tested. Water quality sampling of the unnamed tributary and Towanda Creek shows results at or near the same water quality indicated by samples taken prior to drilling activity," company information states, noting there have been no reported fish kills.

Chesapeake officials believe "approximately 240 barrels flowed over the top of the containment berms onto nearby land, with an even more limited amount of fluid making its way into an unnamed tributary of Towanda Creek." The water stopped seeping after about four hours.

"We understand that operating in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a privilege. We have learned from this and have taken steps to mitigate the risk of this type of event happening in the future," said John K. Reinhart, Chesapeake's vice president of operations, Eastern Division.

"We regret this incident and the inconvenience it has caused to our neighbors and the community," he added.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing of the Marcellus Shale, occurs after companies finish the drilling process of natural gas development.

Millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals are pumped more than a mile into the ground at high pressure in order to shatter the rock, thereby releasing the gas.

Not every frack job requires the same solution of chemicals, so not all substances will be used for every well.

According to Chesapeake, the company's most common fracking solution contains 0.5 percent worth of chemicals, which include:

§     hydrochloric acid - found in swimming pool cleaner, and used to help crack the rock;

§     ethylene glycol - found in antifreeze, and used to prevent scale deposits in the pipe;

§     isopropanol - found in deodorant, and used to reduce surface tension;

§     glutaraldehyde - found in disinfectant, and used to eliminate bacteria;

§     petroleum distillate - found in cosmetics, and used to minimize friction;

§     guar gum - found in common household products, and used to suspend the sand;

§     ammonium persulfate - found in hair coloring, and used to delay the breakdown of guar gum;

§     formamide - found in pharmaceuticals, and used to prevent corrosion of the well casing;

§     borate salts - found in laundry detergent, and used to maintain fluid viscosity under high temperatures;

§     citric acid - found in soda pop, and used to prevent precipitation of metal;

§     potassium chloride - found in medicine and salt substitutes, and used to prevent fluid from interacting with soil;

§     sodium or potassium carbonate - found in laundry detergent, and used to balance acidic substances.

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee studying the process recently said 29 chemicals known to cause cancer or other health problems are used in natural gas fracking.