Appalachian Basin

*UPDATE* Plenty of Water for Shale Development in the MWCD

UPDATE (9/6/2012, 09:00 am ET):  On Friday the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) Board of Director’s voted to allow temporary water sales from both Piedmont and Clendening Lakes in Harrison County while waiting for the results of their US Geological Survey water feasibility study for their entire watershed.

The reasoning for allowing the temporary sales of water is because the MWCD will be drawing down both lakes in the fall in order to prepare for the winter.  Both lakes will release a total of 6 billion gallons during the drawdown process or enough water to hydraulically fracture over 1,000 wells.

This kind of sale proves that water withdraws are beneficial to everyone involved.  The MWCD will get revenue to help fund and make improvements to their watershed and the industry will get access to water near their sites which will help cut down on truck traffic for their neighbors.

—Original post from July 27th, 2012—

As the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (MWCD) is awaiting the results on an independent water availability study, it’s important we share a better understanding of the history, facts and science on water availability in the MWCD.  There have been a lot of folks going around the state drumming up fear in regards to Utica Shale development, and they are using water usage as one of their main talking points.  The problem is they are using uninformed opinions to persuade people with fear and innuendo.

The MWCD was created in 1933 for flood control and conservation.  Throughout the years, the MWCD has built 14 dams for the purpose of flood control, conservation and recreation.  The reason being – our area of the state has plenty of water.

It takes 5 million gallons of water to hydraulic fracture a well. In the Susquehanna River Basin. That is a minuscule amount of water considering Ohioan’s uses 11,700 million gallons of water per day (MGD) for various purposes.

But this serves as a good example as the Susquehanna River Basin is where almost all of Marcellus development has taken place in Pennsylvania.  Since 2008 the natural gas industry has used a total of 5.6 billion gallons of water.  The total average daily flow of the Susquehanna River, by comparison, is 20 billion gallons.

5 million gallons sounds like a lot, but the truth is it’s a rather small amount of water in the Muskingum River watershed.  If we look at the flow rate of the Muskingum River, it produces 1,500 cubic feet of water a second or almost a billion gallons per day (per USGS).

That is after we service all of our agricultural, recreation, public water supply and power generation needs.  So in 6 days, the Muskingum River produces more water than the total amount of water used in the hydraulic fracturing process over the past 5 years in Pennsylvania.

But let’s extrapolate on that further.  If, over the next five years, we develop over 2,500 wells in the conservancy district, at an average of 5 million gallons, and we take the flow rate of the Muskingum River over 5 years at 1.7 trillion gallons, we can assume Utica Shale development will use roughly .7 percent of excess water in the MWCD.

Natural Gas Use Increases Water in the Water Cycle

Evaporation can come from many sources.  It can come from lakes, ponds, rivers and even power plants. When it occurs it adds water to the water cycle.

Due to shale development natural gas is becoming a more sought after fuel for our electrical generation needs.  For the first time since the Energy Information Administration (EIA) began collecting data, generation from natural gas-fired plants is virtually equal to generation from coal-fired plants, with each providing 32% of total electric generation.

As these utilities switch over to natural gas, we will continue to see more and more water returning to the water table via evaporation.  Per a report on waste heat by the Department of Energy, we found that when one molecule of methane is burned, it produces two molecules of water vapor. When the moles are converted to pound/mole, we find that every pound of methane fuel combusted produces 2.25 lb. of water vapor.

If a well produces only one billion cubic feet of methane, and a billion cubic feet of methane is approximately 41,620,000 pounds, then we can assume the well will yield 93,644,000 pounds of water.  A gallon of water weighs roughly weighs 8 pounds.  So in the end one billion cubic feet of methane will yield 11,242,000 gallons of water back into our atmosphere as water vapor.

Most Utica Shale wells have only been online for a short time, but we can assume most of these wells will average in their lifetime more than double the 1 billion mcf production we have calculated.  This means we can more than double the amount of water put back into the atmosphere as was used to hydraulically fracture the well.

Taking this into account, it seems time that we go about focusing on putting Ohioan’s back to work and gaining needed revenues for our public government districts, who can use the financial help.

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