Appalachian Basin

There’s No Crying In Baseball (or Baseline Water Testing)

Last night John Holko, Bob Williams and I participated in another of a series of Joint landowners Coalition of New York educational sessions on Marcellus Shale.  This was a repeat of one that took place in Lake Huntington a few weeks ago. This one took place in Deposit , New York and we were joined by Rich Nyahay of Gastem USA.  You can find my presentation here and John’s here but what got  a lot of attention by the 65+ attendees was Rich’s detailed discussion of Gastem’s testing protocols.

Gastem USA has drilled a well into the Utica Formation in the Town of Maryland, Otsego County and hydraulically fractured it.  Rich presented some of the extensive baseline water testing that preceded the drilling of this well as compared to flowback water and post-drilling conditions.

Gastem has, to date, conducted 121 water well tests and 30 surface water tests (each of which examined a wide range of parameters) and the results indicate two important things; 1) fracturing can be accomplished without affecting water supplies, 2) proving it requires good baseline testing.  Here is some of what Rich had to say on the subject:

The importance of the baseline is further illustrated by the following table from Rich’s presentation:

Notice the methane levels were less post-drilling than pre-drilling, preventing Duke University from reporting methane migration problems in this instance.  Speculative and exaggerated claims are impossible with good baseline testing.  Such data has not always been available and this has allowed folks such Duke (whose study, nonetheless, found hydraulic fracturing was not an issue) to advance theories of methane migration that, though based on incredibly small databases, were not rebuttable because there was nothing to which to compare the data.

Fortunately, that is changing now as gas companies have been accumulating literally thousands of baseline water tests.  We can expect, as this data is soon made available to universities and other independent analysts, that the Duke study suggestions of widespread methane migration problems due to drilling will become a distant and laughable memory.  Duke and others will learn, yet again, you can’t cry “out” in baseball when the runner is following the baseline.


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