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Green Concerns Over Shale Gas Waste

Cleaning up the effects of the US shale gas boom may prove to be a windfall for waste companies, but the extra business comes with environmental concerns, according to a Waste & Recycling News article.

In the tri-state region of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, waste from shale gas drilling accounted for 6 percent of the total waste stream in 2012, up from zero percent in 2008, Waste & Recycling News says.

During that time period the number of landfills accepting waste from shale gas increased from one to more than 35.

Aside from the obvious ecological problems that can arise from landfilling, the waste from shale gas drilling present unique environmental concerns.

For example, drill cuttings are very wet and heavy and, as such, “possess variable shear strength properties,” says Eric Chiado, engineer and principal with Civil & Environmental Consultants, quoted in the article. This attribute has a detrimental effect of waste stability, Chiado says.

The fine particles within the drill cuttings generally increase the amount and change the chemical make-up of a landfill’s leachate —  the potentially hazardous liquid that drains from a landfill. The fine particulate can clog up a landfill’s leachate collection system.

Drill cuttings are inorganic so can also reduce a landfill’s gas generation capabilities, the article says.

According to analysis released in February, the record-low natural gas prices will be a game changer for North American companies that rely on feedstock or direct energy usage to compete on a global level.

The shale gas boom is affecting industries differently, but it will be especially beneficial to those like petrochemicals and fertilizers, where feedstock or energy inputs can account for up to 90 percent of total production costs, the study by RBC Capital Markets and Economist Intelligence Uni says.

The impact on the transportation industry will be more subtle. Rather than a complete transformation to gas-based usage, diversification will likely take place across the industry, the analysis says.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Buckingham

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