In Northeast Pennsylvania, Methane Migration Means Flammable Puddles And 30-Foot Geysers

In Northeast Pennsylvania, Methane Migration Means Flammable Puddles And 30-Foot Geysers by Scott Detrow, July 30, 2012, State Impact Pennsylvania
Last September, Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon declared to a Philadelphia energy conference that the problem of methane migrating through the ground near natural gas drilling sites had been fixed. “Problem identified. Problem solved,”…. Nearly a year later, Bradford County resident Michael Leighton is worried about the flammable gas seeping into his woods. … For more than two months, gas has been gurgling into creeks and wetlands on Leighton’s property. That’s in addition to the methane in Leighton’s water well, and the methane in his basement. … Now, he’s worried about drinking his own water. “They say it’s safe to drink, but I hesitate.” … “I have 80 to 100 feet of headspace between my water and the top of my well,” Leighton said. “And the water actually boiled to the top.” The well, which supplies his drinking water, is located about 10 feet from Leighton’s house. He surveyed the rest of his property, and found nearly 20 miniature geysers squirting water and gas several inches into the air. … “My basement had very high levels of methane,” Leighton recalled. “At one point they gave us an evacuation notice.” Leighton and his wife Nancy refused to leave, though, so the fire department installed ventilation fans in the basement, and cut holes in his wall to pipe fresh air in. Two months later, a ventilation pipe and filtration system installed by Chesapeake is removing the gas from the Leightons’ water. … In a letter, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer spelled out state regulators’ initial findings: They think natural gas escaped — migrated — through perforations in the Morse well’s casing during a bungled repair job. … For the people who live near Shell’s Cochran well pad in Union Township, Tioga County, the problems started in a similar fashion: a phone call about an overflowing well. It was Thursday, June 14, and a water well located inside the Ralston Hunting Club’s cabin was flooding the building. … Soon, someone discovered a bigger problem: a geyser shooting methane-infused water more than 30 feet in the air. “That’s when all hell broke lose,”…. “Natural gas wants to migrate up,” explained Dave Yoxtheimer, a geologist who works at Penn State University’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research. “It’s lighter, it’s less dense. And it finds itself getting trapped in these shallower, more porous formations. And during the drilling process you can go down through these shallower formations. As you’re drilling through, suddenly you’ve created a conduit for those gasses to escape. If a driller doesn’t surround a gas well with the proper steel and cement casing, the gas can escape, and migrate up to the surface through faults and water wells.

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