Duke Univ., Nicholas School of the Environment / by Brian D. Lutz, Aurana N. Lewis and Martin W. Doyle
[Abstract] Hydraulic fracturing has made vast quantities of natural gas from shale available, reshaping the energy landscape of the United States (US). Extracting shale gas, however, generates large, unavoidable volumes of wastewater, which to date lacks accurate quantification.For the Marcellus shale, by far the largest shale gas resource in the US, we quantify gas and wastewater production using data from 2,189 wells located throughout Pennsylvania. Contrary to current perceptions, Marcellus wells produce significantly less wastewater per unit gas recovered (~35%) compared to conventional natural gas wells.
Further, well operators classified only 32.3% of wastewater from Marcellus wells as flowback from hydraulic fracturing; most wastewater was classified as brine, generated over multiple years.Despite producing less wastewater per unit gas, developing the Marcellus shale has increased the total wastewater generated in the region by ~570% since 2004, overwhelming current wastewater disposal infrastructure capacity. [H/T: EcoWatch]