Protecting the Environment

Natural gas produced from the Marcellus Shale formation is a clean-burning energy resource that can be extracted safely, while protecting our environment. Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale gas producers operate under rules and regulations established by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), covering every aspect of planning, drilling and completing a gas production well.


Water is as important a natural resource in the Commonwealth as the natural gas beneath the ground. Water is used in a gas well's fracture stimulation process, which opens microscopic pores in the shale formation to allow the flow of gas into well. A water management plan, including the identification of a proposed water withdrawal source, is required under DEP's permitting process for Marcellus Shale wells. Water used for wells in the Delaware, Potomac and Susquehanna River basins must also be reviewed by interstate federal commissions prior to the withdrawal of water from waterways in those river basins, as called for in those commissions’ charters.

Before permitting a well, DEP reviews the drilling, construction and water use plans and visits the drilling location. A series of environmental safeguards are included in the development of every drill pad, such as the use of erosion and sedimentation controls, fugitive dust controls and the use of well casing and an underground cement barrier between the well and water-bearing geologic zones. Together, these controls protect surface water in the area of the well from runoff and groundwater from impacts associated with drilling operations.

Water used in the fracture stimulation process is transported by truck from a designated withdrawal point or conveyed through a pipeline. It is stored at the well site, along with sand and friction-reducing agents, then mixed with those materials and pumped into the well bore to fracture the shale deep beneath the ground. Flow-back water generated in the fracture process is stored in lined on-site holding ponds or tanks and is held until it is transported for treatment at a DEP permitted facility.

The industry is committed to ensuring a safe and long-term approach to treat and dispose of wastewater generated during natural gas well development. Today, only a few hundred Marcellus Shale wells have been drilled or are in the planning phases, and gas developers are able to effectively manage water use and wastewater treatment.

Based on published projections, even at a forecast peak of drilling activity in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, the industry's water use will account for a tiny fraction of the state’s water consumption of 10 billion gallons per day ― less than what is used for recreational purposes, such as golf course irrigation in summer months.

Pennsylvania gas producers are working to advance and improve water management approaches in the Marcellus Shale. The Marcellus Shale Committee is working with the Appalachia Shale Water Management Committee, a consortium of wastewater treatment experts, to research water use, recycling, treatment and disposal options.

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Transportation and Infrastructure

Gas producers must address important concerns in the transportation of equipment, materials, water and finally, the natural gas produced from a Marcellus Shale well. Roads in the area of well pads must be capable of supporting trucks transporting heavy equipment, and often must be upgraded and maintained or repaired by gas developers. Many of Pennsylvania's roads will be substantially improved and continuously maintained by the gas producers, providing a valuable benefit to landowners and municipalities. These companies also work with municipal governments to bond roads, providing an assured source of funding in the event of damages.

Gas developers also work with municipal governments and neighbors to address the specific concerns of neighborhoods or communities where drilling takes place. This can include using enhanced traffic controls during periods of high transportation demand, working with school districts on school bus safety concerns and enhanced dust control programs.

Once a well is drilled and is producing gas, the gas must be transported for processing – the next step in safely delivering gas to homes and businesses. Gas is sent from the well in an underground "gathering pipeline" to a larger transmission pipeline; most transmission pipelines are currently in operation, part of a national infrastructure in place to deliver gas from the wellhead to customers. Compression stations and other support facilities are also constructed as needed to help move the gas to its final destination.

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Taking Responsibility

Pennsylvania gas well developers take responsibility in caring for the environment, and have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on environmental management systems. Gas produced from the Marcellus Shale will fuel the Commonwealth's future for decades, potentially creating tens of thousands of jobs. We know natural gas can be extracted safely in Pennsylvania and we accept responsibility to ensure that our natural resources are preserved for generations to come.