Clinton approves Marcellus shale well

| Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Clinton Township supervisors on Tuesday gave an Exxon Mobil subsidiary the go-ahead to drill a Marcellus shale well on private property along Route 228.

Voting unanimously, the board approved the plans of XTO to drill for natural gas on land owned by John and Holly Quinn. The roughly 25 acres the couple owns sits between Sandy Hill Road and Saxonburg Boulevard.

The project also will affect neighboring properties owned by Don Miller and Bruce Kennedy. At 7,000 feet deep, the well will run horizontally about 4,000 feet under their properties to a point near McKay Road and Saxonburg Boulevard.

John Quinn said site construction could begin within the next two weeks.

According to information provided by Supervisor Mary Zacherl, construction of the well pad could take as long as 40 days.

The "fracking" process — the process of using water, sand and chemicals to break the shale and release the natural gas — could take as long as 90 days, she said.

Work will occur around-the-clock.

An XTO official said the company plans to install a pipe running north from the site to carry the gas from the well.

The company will haul fresh water to the site to use in the fracking process. Officials said the residual fracking fluid will be kept in on-site containers to be reused or taken to a disposal site approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The company agreed to lengthy list of requests from supervisors, ranging from ensuring that steps will be taken to prevent mud from getting on the roads work trucks travel to providing a "letter of assurance" it will supply water to any property owner whose well water becomes tainted because of the drilling.

At the very least, the company will test wells within 2,100 feet of the well. Company officials, however, said they could test up to 4,000 feet from the horizontal fracking path.

XTO will test water wells before, during and after drilling, as requested by supervisors.

Drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus shale is a divisive industry. Among other things, those opposed to the drilling argue the fracking process harms the water supply.

None of the roughly 20 residents who attended last night's meeting voiced opposition.

John Quinn said he isn't worried about area water wells being tainted and that he hasn't heard concerns from anyone in the township.

Meantime, supervisors said they plan to lease township property for potential shallow oil and gas well drilling and Marcellus drilling.

Supervisor Jim Halstead said doing so could generate about $160,000 for the township.

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