CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A 2011 law has provided new information about what natural gas companies are doing with the huge amounts of waste generated by West Virginia's drilling boom, but major data gaps remain, a legislative committee heard Tuesday.
Evan Hansen, president of the consulting firm Downstream Strategies, said the state requires drilling operators to report what they do with only about 38 percent of the waste they produce.
"We have no idea what happens to the other roughly 62 percent of waste that's being generated at the wells in West Virginia," Hansen told the Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources.
Hansen offered lawmakers a sneak peek at a new report his firm is putting together to provide the first look at what West Virginia regulators know about the huge amounts of water used and waste generated by the boom in natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.
Like the boom in gas production in other shale gas regions, advances in drilling technologies have fueled the Marcellus rush.
Drilling operators use a process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which shoots vast amounts of water, sand and chemicals deep underground to break apart rock and release gas. They also frequently use a process that drills down, and then turns horizontally to allow more gas to be acquired.
During a hearing Tuesday, Hansen said the state's Natural Gas Horizontal Well Control Act, passed by lawmakers during a December 2011 special session called by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, included some new reporting requirements for well operators.
But in examining a database maintained by the Department of Environmental Protection, Hansen's firm found some unreliable data, gaps in required reporting, and inadequate enforcement of the reporting requirements.
For example, 35 percent of wells did not report required data, Hansen said. And West Virginia only required operators to file reports about "flowback" fluids that come back out of wells, not other types of waste, Hansen said.