Last December, the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) started investigating methane in three water wells in Franklin Township (Susquehanna County), PA. Since there are several gas wells being drilled by WPX Energy a few thousand feet away, wells that were cited for improper casing, the DEP asked WPX to install methane venting systems for the families of the three wells in question while the DEP investigates (see this MDN story). WPX is also investigating, and their results conclusively show the methane in the water wells isn’t coming from WPX’s gas wells.
A natural gas drilling company’s analysis of methane in four Franklin Twp. water wells has determined that the gas matches methane found naturally near Salt Springs State Park, not gas from the Marcellus Shale, a company spokeswoman said Tuesday.
WPX Energy performed the analysis after three families along Route 29 in Susquehanna County raised concerns with state regulators that Marcellus Shale drilling operations might have tainted their water supplies with gas.
The state Department of Environmental Protection received WPX’s results last week and is reviewing them, a DEP spokeswoman said. The department is waiting on its own sample results.
The analysis, a form of chemical fingerprinting, studies stable isotopes in the methane for signs of its origin.The procedure has become a frequent tool for regulators and companies seeking to distinguish between deep gas harvested by drillers, shallow gas caused by the breakdown of organic material and gas trapped in middle rock layers closer to the surface than the mile-deep Marcellus.
Susan Oliver, a spokeswoman for WPX, said in an email that "the characteristics of the methane in the three water wells match the characteristics of the shallow methane that has been in Franklin Forks and the Salt Springs area for many decades. The results do not match the chemical footprint of the natural gas coming from the Marcellus Shale."*
PA State Route 29 meanders through Franklin Township south through Montrose, South Montrose, and through Dimock, PA. It’s no coincidence that the water wells in Franklin, like the water wells in Dimock, have methane gas in them. Water wells in that area have methane in them for decades (generations), long before Marcellus shale gas drilling ever started. The methane is naturally occurring and one of the reasons Susquehanna County has eight of the ten highest producing natural gas wells in the state.
*The Scranton Times Tribune (May 9, 2012) – Driller: Tests link Franklin Twp. methane to natural sources not shale