ECA Explains Innovations for Gas Well Drilling in Greene County, Pennsylvania

by Duane Nichols on September 12, 2011

Natural Gas In Use On Location

The Energy Corporation of America is one of the smaller players in the Marcellus shale drilling operations taking place in Greene County, Pennsylvania.  But, ECA is working hard to be a leader in the reduction of the carbon footprint left behind by drilling, according to Kyle Mork, vice president of eastern operations. They are using the Bi-Fuel System, a development of Helmerich and Payne International Drilling Contractors. This system allows drilling rigs to be fueled by a 50/50 blend of diesel fuel with the natural gas accessed on site, as reported in the Washington (PA) Observer-Reporter.

 ECA representatives estimated it takes an average of 2,000 gallons of fuel daily to run a drilling rig, and this Bi-Fuel System reduces that amount by 70 percent.  Air quality also is reduced by the use of this new technology, according to ECA. Emissions testing data has shown a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 31 tons per year and less impact of nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and total particulate matter.

Their drilling site in Cumberland Township uses the Bi-Fuel System and also has employed electricity to run equipment instead of diesel fuel, reducing the noise level of the rig greatly.  This site is currently laid out to drill six wells, nearly side-by-side. The drill rig being used moves from one well pad to the next over a system of rails. To drill one well takes roughly 10 days. In two months, this site will be drilled and ready to begin production of natural gas. The company spends less money, tears up fewer roads and emissions are reduced greatly by the lack of back-and-forth traveling from well to well.

ECA is also working with fresh water from permitted wells to supply the necessary water for drilling operations. It has been two years since they took water out of the Monongahela River, even though they are permitted to do so.  The motors used to pump the fresh water through pipes to their well pads are commercial grade engines the company had converted to run on the natural gas they are extracting. 

“By pumping the water from our own fresh water, we’ve eliminated over 2,000 truckloads of water on the road over a year. It is pumped to the pit and pumped to the job. There is no hauling,” said Hugh Caperton II, operations manager for ECA. “That is over 10 million ton miles on state roads. We only have a 5-to-10-minute drive to all of our locations. We are not trying to jump around to hold leases. The more wells we can put on a pad the better for everybody.”  Caperton credited company president and CEO, John Mork for having the vision to seek out technology to run their equipment from the gas they extract.  “Our president said, ‘guys, run it off of the gas,’” Caperton said. “We are at the front end of this.”

Some 559 Marcellus gas well permits have been issued in Greene County, as of July 15, 2011, with higher numbers in five other counties in Pennsylvania. The two leading counties are Bradford (1713 permits) and Tioga (1130 permits), both in the north central region, i.e. the so-called Endless Mountains area.

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