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Marcellus Well Casings Problems

by John Randolph   |  February 8th, 2012 1
Marcellus Well

Numerous violations in 2011 showed that improper cement casing allowed natural gas wells such as this one to pollute Pennsylvania groundwater. ©Garth Lenz/ iLCP photo

Reporting Sept. 18, 2011 for the Times Tribune, staff writer Laura Legere  says that the “Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in early September, 2011 violations data show problems persist with the cemented strings of steel casing meant to protect groundwater from gas and fluids in Marcellus wells.”

During the first eight months of 2011, 65 Marcellus wells were cited statewide for faulty casing and cementing practices—one more than was recorded in 2010. She reported that at a recent Shale Gas Insight conference in Philadelphia the CEO of one of the largest Marcellus shale drilling companies in the state was “unequivocal in his message that methane contamination of drinking water supplies from faulty gas wells is at an end in the state.” Industry spokesmen point out that historical (abandoned) gas wells in Pennsylvania, most of them without modern well casings, number between an estimated 200,000 and 600,000 wells. (There is no documentation.)

The recent increase in cementing and casing violations is due to the rapid increase in Marcellus drilling in the state. Casing and cementing violations do not necessarily indicate that methane has migrated into drinking water supplies and methane pollution of drinking-water wells from natural causes has been frequent in the state, especially in natural-gas and oil regions. The pace of new violations, under newly adopted PADEP casing and cementing regs, runs at an average of 8 per month.


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