Pennsylvania

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Pennsylvania natural gas production still growing, but pace has slowed

Pennsylvania natural gas production is still growing, but the pace has slowed significanty.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

Pennsylvania natural gas production is still growing, but the pace has slowed significantly.

Natural gas production in Pennsylvania continues to grow, but its rate of growth has slowed significantly in recent years.

During the first six months of 2017 statewide natural gas production grew by about 3 percent, compared to the same time period in 2016, according to Matthew Knittel, director of Pennsylvania’s Independent Fiscal Office (IFO).

The IFO issues quarterly reports on natural gas production and also analyzes the revenue from the impact fees, which gas drillers pay on a per-well basis.

Knittel says for example, in 2012, when the IFO began tracking production, the growth rate was very strong. In 2013, statewide gas production grew by 52 percent. The following year it was up 31 percent.

He says that pace can’t be sustained forever. Natural gas wells tend to be most productive in the beginning and then dramatically taper off. So in order to keep production up, drillers need to keep putting in new wells to replace the older ones.

“The second item driving the dynamic is the fact that there’s a lot of wells that have been drilled that are in inventory and haven’t been produced,” says Knittel. “We believe producers are waiting for prices to recover in order to bring production back online.”

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DEP issues water permits for Atlantic Sunrise pipeline

The red lines show the  Atlantic Sunrise expansion. The light blue lines are the existing Transco system.

Courtesy: Williams

The red lines show the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline expansion. The light blue lines are the existing Transco system.

Pennsylvania environmental regulators approved key water permits for the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline Thursday, allowing construction to move forward on the natural gas transmission line.

The line is an expansion of the existing Transco system, which has over 10,000 miles of pipeline moving natural gas to other businesses, such as utility companies and power plants. The Atlantic Sunrise is designed to ship Marcellus Shale gas southward, from northeastern Pennsylvania to markets along the east coast, including an export terminal under construction in Maryland.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued so-called Chapter 105 and 102 permits, which are needed for water obstruction and encroachment, and erosion and sediment controls, respectively.

“DEP undertook a thorough review of these permit applications, and factored in thousands of comments from Pennsylvania residents,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell in a statement. “DEP’s technical staff reviewed the comments in evaluating the revised plans and final permit conditions that must be met throughout the construction process of this pipeline.” Continue Reading

DEP issues violation to Sunoco for another spill of drilling fluid

A sign marks a water crossing on land in Huntingdon County where Sunoco wants to build the Mariner East 2 pipeline. Although Sunoco still has to acquire water crossing and earth moving permits, the company has already cleared the area of trees.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact Pennsylvania

A sign marks a water crossing on land in Huntingdon County where Sunoco wants to build the Mariner East 2 pipeline. DEP issued a Notice of Violation for a drilling mud spill that occurred last week in Dauphin County.

Pennsylvania officials issued a Notice of Violation to Sunoco Pipeline on Wednesday following another spill of drilling fluid, this time into the Susquehanna River at a Mariner East 2 pipeline site in Dauphin County.

The Department of Environmental Protection said the spill was about 50 gallons of bentonite, non-toxic drilling fluid, and was inspected by DEP officials on Aug. 24. It occured in the same place as a much larger spill, of 495 gallons, about a week earlier. The material that spilled in the earlier incident was never recovered, the DEP said.

Failure to fix the first spill “allowed an unauthorized discharge of industrial waste to remain in the Susquehanna River while active drilling continued,” the Notice of Violation said. Continue Reading

No fine for Range Resources in major drilling case, DEP quietly settles

This July 27, 2011 file photo shows a farmhouse in the background framed by pipes connecting pumps where the hydraulic fracturing process in the Marcellus Shale layer to release natural gas was underway at a Range Resources site in Claysville, Pa.

Keith Srakocic / AP Photo

This July 27, 2011 file photo shows a farmhouse in the background framed by pipes connecting pumps where the hydraulic fracturing process in the Marcellus Shale layer to release natural gas was underway at a Range Resources site in Claysville, Pa. After announcing an $8.9 million dollar fine against the driller two years ago, DEP quietly settled the case with no financial penalty.

More than two years after the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a record-breaking $8.9 million fine against driller Range Resources with tough talk about cracking down on faulty drilling operations, the department quietly settled the case this week without issuing any financial penalties.

The fine was issued on May 11, 2015 after the DEP said the company continually failed to fix a gas well that polluted five residential wells, groundwater and a stream with methane in Lycoming County. Range appealed the case to the Environmental Hearing Board.

Range Resources originally drilled the well in the winter of 2011, and fracked it in June of that year. The DEP issued a notice of violation in September 2013, citing a faulty cement job. Despite that notice, state regulators said the company did not fix the well. Continue Reading

Two dead and four injured at Pittsburgh area coal plant

Bruce Mansfield Power Plant

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

Two workers died and four others were injured in an accident at a Pittsburgh-area coal-fired power plant late Tuesday.

The accident occurred at FirstEnergy’s Bruce Mansfield Power Station in Beaver County, west of Pittsburgh, said company spokesperson Stephanie Walton.

“Workers were performing maintenance in an underground enclosure at the Bruce Mansfield plant overnight when the incident occurred around 11:30 pm. FirstEnergy is currently investigating,” Walton said.

Read the full story on the Allegheny Front website

Trump’s EPA cuts threaten water quality in Delaware River Basin, report says

The Schuylkill River as seen from Fairmount Park near the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Jon Hurdle / StateImpact PA

The Schuylkill River with the Fairmount Waterworks in the foreground. A new report says proposed EPA cuts will hurt water quality in the Delaware River Basin.

Water quality in the Delaware River Basin would be impaired if the Trump administration’s proposed deep cuts in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s budget become law, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The report from the environmental group PennEnvironment said the EPA has played a critical role in the Delaware River’s improved health in recent decades, but that progress would be imperiled if the agency is unable to continue its work in cleaning up pollution, enforcing environmental laws, and working with state and local agencies to maintain water quality. Continue Reading

Harvey causing gasoline price increases in Pennsylvania

Harvey has taken about 14 percent of U.S. refining capacity offline, causes gasoline prices to increase.

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

Harvey has taken about 14 percent of U.S. refining capacity offline, causes gasoline prices to increase.

The devastation from Tropical Storm Harvey along the Gulf Coast is starting to have a ripple effect on gasoline prices across the country.

The storm has taken about 14 percent the nation’s refining capacity offline. The national average price of gasoline has started to rise, as major refineries in the Houston area have shut down.

Patrick DeHaan, Senior Petroleum Analyst with the online price-tracking firm GasBuddy, says Pennsylvania’s average of $2.55 per gallon will probably go up by about 10 to 15 cents.

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Shell, environmental groups reach deal on air monitoring for ethane cracker

Construction of Shell's ethane cracker in Beaver County.

Reid Frazier / The Allegheny Front

Construction for Shell's ethane cracker in Beaver County.

Shell Chemical Appalachia has reached a settlement agreement with two environmental groups that had challenged the air permit for its new petrochemical plant being built near Pittsburgh.

The deal follows more than two years of negotiations and requires Shell to do more air quality monitoring, including installing fenceline monitoring, which can quickly detect emission spikes. It also places more stringent requirements on flaring, in order to burn off pollutants.

“We are pleased to have reached this settlement,” Ate Visser, Vice President of the Shell project, said in a statement. “Now our full focus will be on delivering the facility, with its state of the art operations and environmental controls, which will bring jobs and economic benefits to many Western Pennsylvania families for decades to come.”

Attorney Joseph Minott of the Clean Air Council, says the technology will make Shell’s workers and the community safer.

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Pennsylvania to increase fees for shale gas wells

Pennsylvania environmental regulators plan to increase fees on Marcellus Shale wells.

Joe Ulrich/ WITF

Pennsylvania environmental regulators plan to increase fees on Marcellus Shale wells.

State environmental regulators plan to hike fees imposed on shale well operators later this year, although the amount of the increase is still to be determined.

Marcellus Shale well operators currently pay a $5,000 permit application fee to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The agency recently put a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin saying it is required to review the adequacy of these fees every three years and “the current fee review indicates the need for a fee increase.”

DEP’s oil and gas program is supported entirely by fees, fines, and penalties paid by oil and gas companies. It does not receive any money from the state’s General Fund. In an email department spokesman Neil Shader wrote, “the particulars of the fee package have not been determined at this point.”

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Chesco township plan would give municipalities more control over pipelines

Boris, a German shepherd, walks along a pipeline path in Chester County.

Susan Phillips / StateImpact PA

Boris, a German shepherd, walks along a pipeline path in Chester County.

Chester County’s Uwchlan Township is proposing a sweeping set of regulations that would impose new local restrictions on the development of future pipelines and give municipalities more control over where and how pipelines can be built.

The measures are included in a five-page document that was adopted as a resolution by Uwchlan Township on Aug. 14. The township is now beginning the process of creating ordinances based on the proposals.

Uwchlan officials intend the document to be a template for other Pennsylvania townships that want more control over new pipelines at a time that the industry is planning more lines to carry abundant natural gas and its associated liquids from the Marcellus Shale to domestic and international markets.
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