The safe development of the Marcellus Shale’s abundant, clean-burning natural gas resources are playing a key role in meeting stringent government-set emission targets while also helping to create thousands of jobs, stabilizing energy costs for consumers and aiding in the resurgence of the domestic manufacturing sector. According to natural gas emissions data analyzed by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Marcellus Shale development accounts for less than 3 percent of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 1 percent of the total volatile organic compounds (VOC) emitted each year in the Commonwealth.
Although these are a small percentage of total emissions, natural gas producers continue to leverage new technologies aimed at further reducing the industry’s environmental footprint. These environmentally-focused technologies include the implementation of advanced emissions control equipment at compressor stations, vapor recovery units, the deployment of “green completions” technology as well as the use of drilling and completion engines fueled by American natural gas.
“Our industry is driven by continuous improvement and technological advancements that further reduce the relatively minimal and short-term environmental footprint associated with safe, tightly-regulated natural gas development,” said Marcellus Shale Coalition CEO Kathryn Z. Klaber. “And while these data focus on that small percentage of emissions that come from our operations, the increased use of clean-burning natural gas is proving critical in addressing and achieving improved air quality in Pennsylvania and across the nation.”
Beginning during Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration, over the past few years DEP has conducted a series of air monitoring studies in active shale gas development regions, and “did not identify concentrations of any compound that would likely trigger air-related health issues associated with Marcellus Shale drilling.” Moreover, the DEP recently announced additional long-term monitoring that currently underway in Washington County, Pa., which the industry supports.
“We are pleased to see that DEP monitoring data shows that the region’s air quality has remained stable as natural gas development activities have increased. While the vast majority of the emissions from EPA Tier 1 industries are ongoing and long-term, the emissions our industry reported to DEP in 2011 – the most active year for Marcellus development – are for the most part short-term in nature and geographically dispersed,” continued Klaber.
According to a survey of completions performed by the MSC members in 2011, more than 80 percent of completions were either produced to a pipeline or shut-in while awaiting the installation of a pipeline. The remaining completions were flared, with only one well being vented. This illustrates that MSC members companies are in full compliance with EPA’s “reduced emission completions” guidance before the agency mandated this practice last year and set to go into effect in 2015.
Additionally, and as recently noted by EPA, nationwide air emissions are down 8 percent; and across the Mid-Atlantic region, which include Marcellus Shale-producing states, emissions are down 13.8 percent. Importantly, this significant improvement in air quality coincides with increased development and the expanded use of natural gas, evidencing further the clear environmental benefits of this abundant, clean-burning resource.