Pennsylvania natgas drillers short water due to drought

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 19, 2012 3:09 PM
Pennsylvania natgas drillers short water due to drought

By Jeanine Prezioso

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Drought conditions in Pennsylvania have forced at least one natural gas driller to scale back production as companies temporarily suspend withdrawing water needed for drilling in certain dry areas.

Talisman Energy,, one of 10 companies operating in a drought-affected area, said it had scaled back drilling but did not say by how much.

"We scaled back operations until the rains start. We do that every year depending on conditions. It's expected," said Diane Gross, a company spokeswoman in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Water is an integral part of the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking".

A spokesman for XTO Energy, owned by Exxon Mobil, one of the companies operating in the affected area, told Reuters its production had been minimally affected, if at all.

Likewise, Carrizo Oil & Gas said the company's operations were not affected by the drought.

It was tapping water from its own reservoirs, a spokesman said.

The drought has affected 10 companies in five counties, Susquehanna River Basin Commission (SRBC) officials said in a press release on Wednesday.

A spokeswoman for the commission said the lack of water should not have too much of an impact on production as long as the drought does not persist.

"Overall, the companies have known to diversify and get water from various sources," Susan Obleski, director of communications for the SRBC, said.

That doesn't mean it won't affect production long term if conditions don't improve, she added.

The number of affected water withdrawal areas had risen to 19 on Thursday from 17 the day before, she said, and that number is expected to rise.

Companies may have to travel further from their drilling operations to retrieve water.

In fracking, water is mixed with chemicals and flushed down and through a horizontal well at high pressure to hold open cracks created rocks allowing gas particles to rise to the surface.

Chesapeake Energy and EXCO Resources also operate in the affected areas, but did not return calls seeking comment.

Pennsylvania has been a focal point for natural gas drilling in the United States. The state sits atop the Marcellus Shale, a large natural gas basin. Production out of that area has boosted U.S. supplies of the fuel to record levels and pushed prices to 10-year lows.

(Additional reporting by Edward McAllister.)