Some studies show that land, water, and air are affected by the Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction process. There are several levels of impact on vital resources and these impacts can affect decision making of companies, governments, and individuals.
Farmlands and forests are impacted when natural gas is extracted from the Marcellus Shale. The transportation of heavy equipment impacts municipal roadways. The horizontal drilling techniques use less land surface than would be needed for vertical drilling. Horizontal wells can reduce the number of access roads, well pads, pipelines, and production facilities needed. Landowners also have the right to protection from “unreasonable encroachment or damage.” According to the Department of Environmental Protection, owners of surface rights should only seek legal advice and negotiate with drilling companies for location of access roads and drilling equipment and a reasonable price for damages, crop loss, etc.
When heavy equipment travels over farmland, soil compaction occurs. Soil compaction is caused by tire pressure and this can have an effect on plant production. Soil compaction is also caused by axle loads which reduce productivity for decades. To avoid compaction, companies can move the topsoil and stock pile it to one side on the site. Stone is then added to the subsurface to stabilize it before heavy equipment is moved across the land. Once the well is completed, the topsoil is returned and crops can be grown.
Forestlands can also be affected by Marcellus drilling. To drill, a large number of trees may need to be cut down to build access roads. Shrubs and flowers may also need taken down for roadway access. Owners of this land can stipulate where the access roads are placed or require drilling companies to use old lumbering roads. It is important for the landowner to contact lawyers who specialize in Marcellus Shale natural gas extraction for legal advice regarding negative impact on the forests.
Responsible drilling companies can restore the surface land to its pre-drilling state. But, it is important this information is included in the signed lease and specify how any problems will be handled. It is recommended that landowners educate themselves with terminology as there are many complexities involved. Again, this is why most landowners seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
There are also environmental concerns regarding Marcellus shale drilling and water contamination. Both surface and ground water are used in the drilling operations to extract natural gas from the shale formation.
The water that is used for drilling can come from various places such as rivers, lakes, private water sources, municipal water, and recycled fracking water. This water, used in drilling, is contaminated and is hauled away to be treated. It cannot be returned to its source.
Another major concern is water contamination. Drilling through aquifers can contaminate water supplies. To avoid contaminating drinking water aquifers, drillers use cement casings to surround the drilling pipe. The fracking fluid contains chemicals used by the company to facilitate gas recovery from the shale. The proportions of chemicals used by the drilling company is proprietary information and is not information released to the general public.
Because natural gas is the cleanest of all fossil fuels, its air quality benefits are often praised. However, natural gas production does not exist without consequences. Its extraction from the Marcellus shale impacts air quality and releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Potential sources of air pollution varies on the phase of the drilling stage. In the early phases, the air can be polluted by drilling rigs and fracking engines that are fueled by diesel or gasoline. Air pollution also comes from the truckloads of water carried to the drilling site and the water being hauled away. Once the drilling stage is completed, production begins – which includes compressor engines and condensate tanks. Unintended leaks can also occur from drilling equipment that is worn, rusty, corroded, or not properly installed.
Air quality is an issue that needs a closer look with the increase of natural gas drilling and production. Although there is some disagreement on the extent of air pollution, it is suggested that more emphasis be placed in air quality monitoring.