PIOGA looking for more drill cuttings

Three years ago, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association put out a call to its member companies to give samples of drill cuttings for analysis. PIOGA wanted to study the shards of the ground that get pulled up during the drilling process in order to prove the cuttings can be recycled as fill and construction materials.

Response to the 2011 solicitation has been, frankly, “pretty pitiful,” said Kevin Moody, vice president and general counsel with the association.

In 2012, 15 companies volunteered samples. In 2013, four did so.

So far this year, not one has participated.

“We’re paying for this,” Mr. Moody reminded members at the organization’s annual conference Tuesday at Heinz Field. “I’m making a plea.”

The organization would like to have at least 30 samples, equally split between horizontal shale wells, vertical shale wells, and conventional oil and gas wells.

If the research goes well, PIOGA hopes to convince the state Department of Environmental Protection that drill cuttings can be used in remediating well sites, on construction sites and as fill.

The DEP has been looking at that issue as well, including reviewing a permit application from Range Resources to use its drill cuttings in well pad construction.

Concerns about chemicals and radioactivity in shale drill cuttings have raised alarm and kept enthusiasm for reuse at bay. They’ve also stalled efforts to get regulatory approvals.

“Obviously, any time you can find beneficial use for something that would otherwise go to a landfill, that's a positive, and we strongly believe that will be the case with cuttings. But there's a regulatory process that must be respected and the laws of economics,” said Matt Pitzarella, a spokesman for Range.

Mr. Moody doesn’t believe there’s a danger in using drill cutting and hopes to prove that to the DEP and the public.

If only someone would donate them to PIOGA instead of to a landfill.

Anya Litvak: alitvak@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1455.

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