Chesapeake Braces For July Sampling

on June 28, 2011 at 4:10 PM

Environmental regulators are preparing to take a second round of samples from Chesapeake Energy natural gas wells in Pennsylvania as operator Chesapeake Energy continues to battle allegations over its operations.

Natural gas was poised, only a few months ago, to take over the electric generation industry. It could provide stable base load power, unlike intermittent generation from renewables like wind and solar, it was cleaner and greener than coal or nuclear, and American deposits were seemingly boundless.

But a recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study, which found water contamination near the site of an April 20 natural gas well blowout at the Chesapeake Energy Marcellus shale in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, may already be giving the industry some trouble.

Immediately after the incident, from April 27-28, the EPA took water samples from seven private wells adjacent to the blowout site. Because the wells are private, the EPA is not yet publicly releasing its findings, it said in a statement last week.

But, the agency is not stopping there and said it expects to investigate the issue further.

“EPA does not have enough data to determine the source of contamination that was found in three of these wells,” the agency said in a statement. “Therefore, EPA will be sampling these wells again in July.”

The Company Responds

Chesapeake Energy was quick to shed blame, claiming that their hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for natural gas had nothing to do with the water contamination.

“The EPA water test results reflect the water quality that existed in these wells before any natural gas drilling activity began in this area,” said Brian Grove, senior director of Chesapeake Energy’s corporate development. “Data from Chesapeake’s pre-drill water-testing program show approximately 25% of the sampled water sources have pre-existing detectable levels of methane present and 20% fail one or more of the US EPA’s primary or secondary drinking water standards.”

Chesapeake Energy is also currently engaged in a war of words with the New York Times, which recently published a feature on natural gas supply in the United States. Denying claims that natural gas supply has fallen short of forecasts, the company wrote on it site, “development of these shales has only just begun.”

Photo: A natural gas drill rig explores shales.