Characterization and Analysis of Liquid Waste from Marcellus Shale Gas Development

View Journal Article


July 3, 2015


James Saiers, Shimon Anisfeld, Ziyan Chu, Lucija Muehlenbachs, Sheila M. Olmstead, and Jhih-Shyang Shih


Journal Article

Reading time

1 minute


Hydraulic fracturing of shale for gas production in Pennsylvania generates large quantities of wastewater, the composition of which has been inadequately characterized. We compiled a unique data set from state-required wastewater generator reports filed in 2009–2011. The resulting data set, comprising 160 samples of flowback, produced water, and drilling wastes, analyzed for 84 different chemicals, is the most comprehensive available to date for Marcellus Shale wastewater. We analyzed the data set using the Kaplan–Meier method to deal with the high prevalence of nondetects for some analytes, and compared wastewater characteristics with permitted effluent limits and ambient monitoring limits and capacity. Major-ion concentrations suggested that most wastewater samples originated from dilution of brines, although some of our samples were more concentrated than any Marcellus brines previously reported. One problematic aspect of this wastewater was the very high concentrations of soluble constituents such as chloride, which are poorly removed by wastewater treatment plants; the vast majority of samples exceeded relevant water quality thresholds, generally by 2–3 orders of magnitude. We also examine the capacity of regional regulatory monitoring to assess and control these risks.


Related Content