Drillers, Pa. DEP look at recycling drill cuttings
Many drillers are already recycling the wastewater that flows back to the surface after fracking a well.
Now, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA) wants the state Department of Environmental Protection to allow companies to reuse drill cuttings – rocks and dirt that are pried loose when a well is drilled – for construction and remediation projects.
However, PIOGA’s members have mostly ignored a call from the trade group to submit samples for a study.
More from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Response to the 2011 solicitation has been, frankly, “pretty pitiful,” said Kevin Moody, vice president and general counsel with the association.
In 2012, 15 companies volunteered samples. In 2013, four did so.
So far this year, not one has participated.
“We’re paying for this,” Mr. Moody reminded members at the organization’s annual conference Tuesday at Heinz Field. “I’m making a plea.”
The organization would like to have at least 30 samples, equally split between horizontal shale wells, vertical shale wells, and conventional oil and gas wells.
Drill cuttings can contain naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) and have been known to trigger radioactivity alarms when disposed of at landfills. NORM can become technologically enhanced naturally occurring radioactive material (TENORM) when materials are mixed together, moved, or otherwise changed.
The Department of Environmental Protection is examining drill cuttings as part of its ongoing study on radiation associated with oil and gas development launched last spring.
In an e-mail, DEP spokesperson Morgan Wagner said the agency has issued a research and development permit to the Williamsport-based waste processing firm Clean Earth Inc. “to determine the viability of using processed drill cuttings from gas wells for construction purposes.” Cuttings that are free of TENORM are chemically analyzed and mixed with cement for use at remediation sites under the state’s Land Recycling Program.
The DEP is considering a similar permit application from Range Resources. The company wants permission to research using drill cuttings to build new well pads.
“Any decision regarding the regulation of drill cuttings will be based on the results of these research and development projects in conjunction with the results of the department’s TENORM study,” Wagner said.