PA DEP Allows Acid Mine Water to be Used in Fracking

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is attempting to “kill two birds with stone” by allowing Marcellus Shale gas drillers to use acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines as water for hydraulic fracturing of shale gas wells. Yet another example of how gas drilling can be good for the environment.

The Department of Environmental Protection announced the preliminary process it will use for authorizing the use of acid mine drainage water for oil and gas operations, including Marcellus Shale wells.

"Acid mine drainage impairs more than 5,000 miles of streams in our state, making it ideal for operators to take the drainage out of our waterways and put it to use for hydraulic fracturing," DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. "As natural gas extraction does not require drinking quality water, this represents a real win-win that can address two water challenges at once."

Each day, more than 300 million gallons of acid mine drainage discharges into state waterways from sites in the anthracite and bituminous coal regions. The drainage impairs more miles of rivers and streams than any other source of pollution.

DEP completed a preliminary position paper that outlines how requests to use acid mine drainage water for hydraulic fracturing will be reviewed. Operators making such requests will work with DEP program staff to identify potential sources of water from acid mine drainage sites. DEP will then determine the necessary permits and storage and treatment requirements on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, oil and gas companies may provide financial support to acid mine drainage trust funds, ensuring that treatment continues long after there is a need for the water in hydraulic fracturing.*

*Electric Energy (Nov 18, 2011) – Pennsylvania DEP Effort Encourages Oil and Gas Industry to Use Mine Drainage Water