New Water Pipeline Reduces Water Truck Trips in PA

Aqua America and Penn Virginia Resource Partners (PVR) issued a press release yesterday to call attention to a recently completed private pipeline project in the Marcellus Shale in north-central PA. What’s new and different about this pipeline is what it carries: water. The newly completed pipeline supplies water to drilling sites without the need for water trucks—and that’s the “angle” Aqua America and PVR are pushing. They tout the fact that already, in less than a month of operation, the pipeline has eliminated more than 2,000 water truck trips.

From the press release:

Aqua America Inc. and Penn Virginia Resource Partners, L.P. ("PVR") today announced that a newly constructed private pipeline supplying fresh water to certain natural gas producers drilling in the Marcellus Shale in north-central Pennsylvania is now fully operational. It marks the first time water is being commercially supplied directly to drill sites in the Marcellus Shale without the public-highway use of heavy-weight 5,400-gallon tanker trucks customarily employed in well completions. In less than a month of operation, the pipeline has already eliminated more than 2,000 water truck trips over rural roadways. In addition, this project supported the creation of approximately 100 local jobs over the course of construction.

The pipeline project is owned and operated by Aqua — PVR Water Services, LLC, a joint venture of certain Aqua America and PVR operating subsidiaries. The 12-inch diameter steel pipeline largely parallels the trunkline of PVR’s gathering system in Lycoming County and shares PVR’s existing rights-of-way. PVR constructed the fresh water pipeline and handled negotiation of water pipeline capacity contracts with producers. Each company has invested approximately $10.2 million as of March 31, 2012, for construction of the first segment of the project. The joint venture has entered into a three-year agreement with Range Resources – Appalachia, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Range Resources Corporation, to supply fresh water to three of Range’s water impoundments.

William H. Shea, Jr., Chief Executive Officer of PVR, said, “We are pleased to see the start of service of the first phase of this new private pipeline water delivery system that so tangibly benefits both the residents and the contracting producers in the local communities where we operate. We look forward to completing the planned extensions of the pipeline and the expansion of service to additional producers in the region.”

Aqua America Chairman and CEO Nicholas DeBenedictis said, “We are glad to have entered a business offering a positive alternative to the impact of truck hauling through rural communities, while reducing diesel emissions and the overall carbon footprint of providing needed water to the drilling business. By reducing truck traffic, we are also reducing the noise from the vehicles and wear-and-tear on local roadways, plus helping to reduce carbon emissions associated with the thousands of truck trips that have been eliminated because of the pipeline.

“We’ve been in the water business for more than 125 years and shale drilling is a very water intensive business,” DeBenedictis continued. “As this business continues to grow, it’s important that water professionals like Aqua America be involved to ensure the proper management of such an important resource.”*

Playing devil’s advocate (which MDN loves to do), you might say that the 100 temporary jobs the pipeline created while it was constructed have eliminated an equal number of long-term jobs for the drivers of those water trucks. MDN would also point out that drillers pay for roadway upgrades and almost always leave roads in better shape after the drilling is done than before they arrived—giving local residents better roads at no taxpayer expense. Of course, less truck traffic is a good thing. So is using less diesel fuel (less pollution, less noise, etc.). The pendulum swings back and forth in this argument.

MDN is certainly not saying using water pipelines is a bad thing for drilling! Just sayin’ there’s two sides to this issue and sinking permanent pipelines in the ground may not always be the best alternative.

*Aqua America/Penn Virginia Resource Partners (Apr 30, 2012) – More Than 2,000 Truck Trips Already Removed from PA Roadways as New 18-Mile Water Pipeline Supplies Shale Drill Sites