Alpha Natural Resources Sells 120 Gas Wells in WV

On Tuesday Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) announced it was divesting “substantially all of the assets” in two different operations in West Virginia, one of those being a natural gas operation with “120 producing natural gas wells in five counties.” Which got us digging. We recalled that ANR went bankrupt last year and ended up selling 27,400 acres of Marcellus/Utica Shale leases to Vantage Energy for $339.5 million (see Vantage Outbids Rice For Bankrupt Alpha Natural’s 27K Marcellus Acres). That was all of ANR’s Marcellus assets. So what’s with this new deal to sell 120 gas wells in the Mountain State? And which five counties are the wells located in? The announcement didn’t say. So we reached out to ANR and got you some answers…
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Application Filed to Drill/Frack 1st Shale Well in Illinois

Technically, this is not a Marcellus/Utica story, but it is (and should be) of interest to those of us who concentrate on the Appalachian region. The very first application has been filed in Illinois for a permit to drill and frack a shale well. Woolsey Operating Co., headquartered in Kansas, has filed a high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HVHHF) application with the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR has assigned the application Review Number HVHHF-000001 — the very first. Which is momentous. We’ve only seen two mainstream news sources (from Illinois) pick up on what is really big news. No national news sources have covered it–yet. The press release from the DNR provides some details, like the location of the proposed well (southern Illinois, in White County). What the announcement and news stories don’t say is which rock layer will the shale well target? MDN found the answer by reviewing the application…
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PA DEP Green Lights Wastewater Injection Well in Clearfield County

Here’s one that flew mostly under the radar. The Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) has just granted final approval for the state’s ninth wastewater injection well to begin operation. The DEP approved Sammy-Mar, LLC’s Povlik #1 injection well, located in Huston Township, Clearfield County, more than two years after the federal Environmental Protection Agency had approved it. Huston Township in Clearfield County, unlike Highland Township in Elk County, and Grant Township in Indiana County, did not oppose the well. You may recall the DEP approved injection wells in Elk and Indiana counties in March, and had to sue the towns involved over their illegal home rule laws that sought to keep the wells out (see PA DEP Issues 2 Wastewater Injection Well Permits, Sues 2 Towns). This time around, Huston Twp wisely decided not to attempt regulating what only the state, by law, can regulate. This injection well will be an important new resource for Marcellus drillers to dispose wastewater…
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WV Supreme Court: Non-Participating Rights Owner Can’t Stop Lease

Just yesterday we told you about an important court case that had gone to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals (see WV Rights/Pooling Case May have Big Impact on Shale Industry). In brief, the case was appealed from a lower court where a judge found that a “non-participating” mineral rights owner, someone who owned a quarter of the rights for a property in Marshall County, had the power to object and stop a lease of the property for oil and gas drilling. We thought it strange that the lower court judge would make such a decision, which threatens to up-end thousands of leases in WV that are similar. Little did we know that as we were publishing that story, the WV Supreme Court was rendering its decision. All five justices voted to overturn the lower court ruling and preserve sanity for leases in the Mountain State…Continue reading

Cardinal Midstream Forms New Co. Targeting Utica, Other Plays

6/2/17 Update: A previous version of this post was incorrect. MDN confused Cardinal Midstream with Cardinal Gas, which led us to create a confusing post. We apologize to both companies–and regret the mistake! Below is a corrected introduction.

Cardinal Midstream II operates a pipeline gather/processing system in Tioga County, PA. The Tioga system gathers and processes gas from Utica Shale wells in the county (not Marcellus wells, at least not yet). Earlier this week Cardinal announced a new spin-off called Cardinal III, backed with money from EnCap Flatrock Midstream–the same company that has backed Cardinal’s other ventures. The new Cardinal III is getting a $250 million infusion from EnCap to “pursue midstream acquisitions and development opportunities in both conventional and unconventional resource plays across North America.” That means possibly more work in the Marcellus/Utica, but any/all other major plays are also up for grabs. Here’s the announcement…Continue reading

PA Hearing Board Reduces EQT Fine from $4.5M to $1.1M

In October 2014, the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) fined Marcellus driller EQT a whopping $4.53 million for a leaky wastewater impoundment in Tioga County, PA (see PA DEP Levies Biggest Fine Ever, $4.5M Against EQT). While EQT did not say there wasn’t a problem with leaks at the site, they did say the way the DEP calculated the fine is unreasonable and arbitrary. EQT appealed the fine and the case all the way to the PA Supreme Court. In December 2015, the high court handed EQT a “procedural victory” by saying EQT has a point about the manner in which the DEP is calculating the fine (see PA Supreme Court Gives EQT “Procedural Victory” in $4.5M Fine Case). The Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court, PA Commonwealth Court, for follow up work, and in January 2017, a three-judge panel ruled that the method the DEP currently uses to assess fines–by how many days pollution lingers, instead of by how many days the initial release of pollution lasted–is not legal nor common sense (see EQT Wins Court Case Against PA DEP re $4.5M Wastewater Leak Fine). The judges said such a method in fining, “would result in potentially limitless continuing violations.” Under the old way of calculating fines, the DEP was considering upping the fine on EQT to an insane $157 million. Calculating it under the new way will mean a fine of around $120,000. We thought with that ruling it was all done and dusted. Not so. The soap opera continued when the DEP appealed the Commonwealth Court panel’s ruling back up to the PA Supreme Court where the Supremes will consider it all over again (see DEP Appeals $4.5M Wastewater Leak Fine Against EQT to Supremes). Into this mess, let’s now throw in another wrinkle. While the courts have been grappling with issues of procedure and whether or not the DEP can assess fines the way it claims it can (that is, Constitutional issues), at the same time the matter was brought up before the PA Environmental Hearing Board (EHB), a sort of quasi-court set up to hear appeals of decisions made by DEP. The EHB has decided to adjust the fine down significantly–from the DEP’s initial levy of $4.53 million down to $1.1 million. Here was their reasoning…Continue reading

Report: Utica Investment has Injected $50 Billion into Ohio!

A comprehensive study by Cleveland State University researchers shows just how mind-blowing the economic investment in Ohio has been from the Utica Shale. The just-published study, titled “Shale Investment Dashboard in Ohio” (full copy below), finds that between upstream ($39 billion), midstream ($8 billion) and downstream ($3 billion), all related to the Utica Shale, there has been an incredible $50 billion invested in Ohio since Utica drilling began in 2011. It’s really hard to overstate just how big a deal this is. Can you image a $50 billion economic stimulus from the government? No way! It would never happen. And if it did, the money would come out of YOUR pocket–from taxpayers. But this $50 billion ALL came from the private sector. Good ole capitalism. Free enterprise. Private ownership. Private property. Love it! It’s what our great country was built on. Let’s dig into the numbers and relish this fantastic news…
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New USGS Study: Fracking Does Not Contaminate Water Wells

The U.S. Geological Survey has just done us all a big favor. USGS decided to do some in-the-field research to see if there’s any truth to the wild claims of anti-drillers that fracking somehow leaks up through a mile or more of solid rock to pollute water wells. We’ve heard that bogus claim for years–since shale drilling in the Marcellus began in 2004. Those claims were made popular by the Josh Fox and his fake documentary “Gasland.” So USGS researchers went down to Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas–where there’s a lot of oil and gas drilling–and randomly selected 116 domestic and public-supply water wells located as close as 360 feet to unconventional (i.e. shale) oil and gas wells. The researchers published their findings in a new study/paper in the journal Environmental Science & Technology in a paper titled “Methane and Benzene in Drinking-Water Wells Overlying the Eagle Ford, Fayetteville, and Haynesville Shale Hydrocarbon Production Areas” (full copy below). What did the USGS researchers conclude? “Using chemical, isotopic, gas and groundwater-age tracers to thoroughly evaluate those samples — USGS researchers concluded that low concentrations of methane and benzene detected were likely naturally occurring and not attributable to shale development.” Thank you USGS…
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Trump Decision on Leaving Obama Paris Climate Treaty Due Today

If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Put another way, if you commit your country to a “treaty” without getting Senate ratification (an illegal act, which Obama did with the so-called Paris climate treaty), then your successor can uncommit. And that, dear reader, is what we earnestly hope President Trump announces today at 3 pm. We extensively covered the Obama railroading of the horrible Paris agreement–that disadvantages the United States–from the beginning (see Paris Climate Treaty Signed by Obama NOT Binding on U.S.). For a while, it seemed as though Trump, who as candidate spoke against the agreement, would reverse course. If the leaks are accurate, that fear is unfounded. As we previously covered, Big Business (including some Big Oil companies) wants Trump to remain in the Paris deal (see Why does Big Oil Continue to Support Horrible Paris CO2 Treaty?). Our thought on that: Those are the same Big Businesses that supported Hillary Clinton for president. Why would Trump listen to them? He shouldn’t. Trump needs to listen to those of us who put him in office and dump this insidious treaty. The one fact mainstream fake news sources refuse to cover: U.S. carbon dioxide output is falling–without this agreement–due to the use of more natural gas. Why should America pay even MORE taxes–to the rest of the world–as called for in the Paris agreement? We shouldn’t…Continue reading

Marcellus & Utica Shale Story Links: Thu, Jun 1, 2017

The “best of the rest” – stories that caught MDN’s eye that you may be interested in reading. In today’s lineup: Utica Shale well activity as of May 27; Noble Energy closing Southpointe office, 70 losing jobs; will Connecticut change the law to rebrand nuclear as “green energy”?; Williams floats $1.45B in new notes; offshore drillers are the coal miners of 2018; another source of oil starting to get cheap; oil prices on a slippery slope; and more!Continue reading