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Latest Marcellus Shale Issue

Scientific and political disputes over drilling Marcellus shale for natural gas have focused primarily on the environmental effects of pumping millions of gallons of water and chemicals deep underground to blast through rocks to release the natural gas.

Now, University at Buffalo (UB) researchers have found that hydraulic fracturing can cause uranium that is naturally trapped inside Marcellus shale to be released, raising additional environmental concerns.

“Marcellus shale naturally traps metals such as uranium and at levels higher than usually found naturally, but lower than manmade contamination levels,” says Tracy Bank, assistant professor of geology in UB’s College of Arts and Sciences and lead researcher. “My question was, if they start drilling and pumping millions of gallons of water into these underground rocks, will that force the uranium into the soluble phase and mobilize it? Will uranium then show up in ground water?”

To find out, Bank and her colleagues at UB scanned the surfaces of Marcellus shale samples from New York and Pennsylvania. Using sensitive chemical instruments, they created a chemical map of the surfaces to determine the precise location in the shale of the hydrocarbons, the organic compounds containing natural gas. “We found that the uranium and the hydrocarbons are in the same physical space,” says Bank. “We found that they are not just physically – but also chemically – bound. That led me to believe that uranium in solution could be more of an issue because the process of drilling to extract the hydrocarbons could start mobilizing the metals as well, forcing them into the soluble phase and causing them to move around.”

When Bank and her colleagues reacted samples in the lab with surrogate drilling fluids, they found that the uranium was indeed, being solubilized. In addition, she says, when the millions of gallons of water used in hydraulic fracturing come back to the surface, it could contain uranium contaminants, potentially polluting streams and other ecosystems and generating hazardous waste.

“Even though at these levels, uranium is not a radioactive risk, it still is a toxic, deadly metal,” Bank concludes. “We need a fundamental understanding of how uranium exists in shale. The more we understand about how it exists, the more we can better predict how it will react to fracking.”

Record-setting Raise Bored Shaft

Frontier-Kemper Constructors Inc. (FKCI), headquartered in Evansville, Ind.,  recently completed a North-American-record-breaking 22-foot-diameter raise drill shaft for Drummond Co.’s Shoal Creek Mine located near Birmingham, Ala., as part of a service shaft and hoisting system. Prior to raise drilling the shaft, a 13-inch pilot hole was drilled with FKCI’s Ingersoll-Rand RBM211M raise drill, utilizing directional drilling tools. After collar construction, FKCI’s Robbins 81R raise drill was mobilized, the drill pipe was tripped-in, and FKCI’s Sandvik 12E reamer base with 22-foot extensions was attached to the drill pipe. Reaming progressed through relatively hard sandstones and softer shales, and holed through to the surface. The total reaming depth was 1,197 feet. The project also includes concrete lining to a 20-foot finished diameter. FKCI will install a hoisting system with the assistance of the FKCI Mining Group to complete the turnkey package.

This project required extensive analysis of the required drill and tool selection and drilling parameters to complete this challenging task. Collaboration between FKCI’s Mining Group, engineering department, and fabrication shop, along with assistance from Sandvik, Atlas Copco, Mincon, MTI and the Drummond Co., was integral to the success of the project.

Gorman-Rupp Buys National Pump

National Pump Co. has announced that it’s been acquired by the Gorman-Rupp Co. National Pump, founded in 1969 and headquartered in Glendale, Ariz., with five other branch offices in California, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas, manufactures pumps and pump systems for irrigation, municipal, power, industrial, mining, and oil and gas applications. Gorman-Rupp, a publicly traded company, headquartered in Mansfield, Ohio, has been manufacturing and designing centrifugal pumps and pumping systems for more than 77 years.

Jeffrey Gorman, president and CEO of Gorman-Rupp, says he “was excited by the opportunities expected to arise from combining the National Pump Company with Gorman-Rupp’s brand name and operations. National comfortably fits our operational philosophy with its profitability based on its long-established quality products, expertise and brand reputation.”