Some of the consequences of stray methane leaking from natural gas wells are easier to spot than others. Overflowing water wells and bubbling methane puddles are easy to document. But methane plumes are odorless and invisible, so you need some sophisticated equipment to track it.
Equipment like the “portable laser-based methane measurement system and combustible gas indicator” that Gas Safety, Incorporated’s Bob Ackley used to document methane plumes near Leroy Township, Bradford County, on July 25.Ackley was in Bradford County to track the methane migration problems StateImpact Pennsylvania has been reporting on for several months. On May 19th, natural gas began seeping out of Chesapeake Energy’s Morse well. The gas has been bubbling into a nearby stream, and onto at least two families’ property, ever since. Click on the articles in the adjoining box for details on how the leak happened, and how it’s affected the people who live nearby.
When Ackley brought his equipment to Leroy Township on July 25, he found two plumes of gas in the air – one stretching more than 10 miles. He also documented pockets of gas under the ground, and documented elevated methane levels in one family’s home.
According to the report – and it’s important to remember this was funded by an environmental group, and not an official state investigation – “the data and observations clearly indicate natural gas has pervaded an extensive subsurface area and …surface emissions and ground water methane contamination problems are likely to continue for unforeseeable times.” Read Ackley’s full report at the bottom of this post.
The Department of Environmental Protection suspects gas began leaking from a Chesapeake Gas well when pressure bubbled up during a repair job aimed at fixing a faulty piece of equipment within the well. State inspectors documented elevated methane levels in two families’ water supplies, and determined that drilling was to blame. A DEP spokesman tells StateImpact Pennsylvania that “the volume of gas coming out of the ground has been reduced substantially,” though when StateImpact Pennsylvania visited Leroy Township in late August, about a month after Ackley conducted his tests, we found methane bubbling out of the ground and Towanda Creek.
In an email statement, DEP spokesman Kevin Sunday writes, “[DEP has] an active investigation underway to monitor the situation as it unfolds. Our investigation, as any of our investigations into methane migration incidents are, is thorough and includes regular and on-going sampling and analysis.” Read portions of the letter the department sent to Leroy Township residents here, and the earlier public letter from Secretary Krancer to the Clean Air Council, which outlined the state’s initial findings, here.
Chesapeake has called the issue an “isolated incident,” and says it has “identified and corrected” the problems that led to the stray gas.
Gas Safety Incorporated has been investigating gas leaks since 2006. Public Radio International’s Living On Earth profiled the company earlier this year, as it hunted for stray gas in Boston.
Read the full report here: