Marcellus Shale Producers Ensure Environmental, Worker Safety Throughout Hurricane Sandy

Pittsburgh, Pa. – The damage, personal loss and strife facing communities across the eastern seaboard in the days after Hurricane Sandy will not be fully measured for months – if ever.

And while recovery efforts continue to move forward and families work to rebuild their livelihoods, Pennsylvania’s natural gas producers have taken exhaustive measures aimed at ensuring the environment is protected, especially during severe weather conditions. In the days since the storm, producers have not reported any environmental impacts or workforce injuries – and are now operating again, developing clean-burning natural gas for the Commonwealth and beyond.

Below is an overview of industry efforts during this week’s historic weather.

  • “Krancer: So far no incidents in drilling country”: [S]tate Environmental Protection Secretary Mike Krancer said he was pleased by the response of the state’s drillers to Hurricane Sandy. Krancer said the agency had reached out to industry trade groups, such as the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute to tell “them what they already knew, and that was that a storm was coming and they should be ready for it, just like we were preparing to be ready for it.  “And the response we have back is that there have been no incidents at all,” Krancer said. (Allentown Morning Call, 10/30/12)
  • “Drillers heeded storm warning, DEP says”: Rory Sweeney, a spokesman for Chesapeake Energy, said Wednesday morning that there has been “minimal impact” on the company’s Pennsylvania operations. The company inspected and secured its equipment prior to the storm’s arrival, and environmental controls were checked to ensure they would handle significant rain and wind, according to a statement he forwarded. Chesapeake also monitored flood-prone areas and water impoundments throughout the storm. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 10/31/12)
  • “Storm precautions used at gas wells”: Chevron has resumed Marcellus shale natural gas production work that was halted as a precaution before Hurricane Sandy struck on Tuesday and is monitoring erosion controls at well sites because of continuing rain, the company said. “Chevron temporarily halted some drilling and completion activity that could have been impacted by severe weather conditions, such as high winds. We have since resumed activities and will continue to closely monitor weather conditions,” said Chevron spokesman Nathan Calvert. “We were ahead of it. It was something we were prepared for.” … “We will continue to routinely inspect all of our erosion and sedimentation controls to ensure they are functioning as designed and can accommodate the heavy rain and snow,” Calvert said. In preparation for the storm, he said the company drew down water impoundments at hydraulic fracturing sites and storage tanks for production water at producing wells to create storage capacity. The additional storage capacity would have prevented the impoundments and tanks from filling up, he said, noting that the storm could have prevented workers from reaching sites. In addition, employees and contractors were restricted from unnecessary travel. (Herald Standard, 11/1/12)
  • “Marcellus gas production continues undaunted despite Sandy”: On Wednesday, some Marcellus Shale-area producers were saying there was very little impact to their operations, and data from Bentek Energy, a unit of Platts, showed minimal drop-off to total Northeast gas production flow. … “Cabot was fortunate,” said George Stark, spokesman for Cabot Oil & Gas. “Our operations, including production, were not adversely impacted by the storm.” Chesapeake Appalachia also saw little effect to its gas production operations in the Northeast, saying “there has been minimal impact to drilling, completion and production operations in the Marcellus region.” Talisman Energy took preparatory efforts ahead of the storm, said Berta Gomez, media relations adviser with the company. Its drill rig in Pennsylvania was racked over the weekend, in the process of moving to another well location, and was left down until the storm passed. The rig was put up Tuesday, Gomez said, and the company returned to normal operations in Pennsylvania on Wednesday. Christina Ramirez, a spokeswoman for Anadarko Petroleum, said … “We are now returning the select operated production that we shut in on Monday to pre-storm levels.” Although Sandy is one of the worst natural disasters to hit the Northeast in decades, it appears it will have little impact on total Marcellus production for the year. (Platts, 10/31/12)
  • “Sandy spares Marcellus operators”: Chesapeake Energy said it is “continuing to monitor the storm as it progresses”. “However, there has been minimal impact to drilling, completion, and production operations in the Marcellus region thus far,” the gas giant said in a statement. Chesapeake said on Monday that it had taken precautions as the storm approached and that it was “well prepared for the expected weather event”. Cabot Oil & Gas said on Monday that it planned to lay down about five rigs until the storm passed and expected little to no impact on production. … Range Resources spokesman Matt Pitzarella said in a tweet that the company had seen “no impacts” to its Marcellus operations. “(Our) goal now is to stay that way and assist customers like end users and pipeline companies,” he said. … “Our operators have in place exhaustive contingency plans related to severe weather conditions,” [MSC president Kathryn Klabaer] said in a statement. “The safety of our workers and communities is paramount at this point in time as our attention is focused on the environmental, health, and safety protections associated with our industry operations and the communities we call home.” (Upstream Online, 10/30/12)
  • “Planning & Expertise Help Cabot Weather the Storm”: Cabot’s preparations for this storm started at the end of last week with the securing or removing of anything from active sites which could blow over or tip. Pumps and necessary equipment for water withdrawal along the Susquehanna were also removed in case of flooding.  At active locations, drilling pipe was removed from the derricks and staged on the ground. All drilling operations were suspended during the storm. At Cabot’s production locations, no well heads or processing units were damaged. The high standard to which Cabot builds its pad sites and the stringent erosion and sedimentation controls it employs prevented negative impacts to the local environment. As part of its commitment to the community, Cabot offered aid to the county EMS by securing extra generators and stand ready to dispatch manpower to help clean up as needed. (Well Said Cabot, 10/31/12)
  • “Hurricane Sandy Causes Minimal Disruption in Marcellus”: Hurricane Sandy appears to have posed a minimal disruption to oil and gas companies operating in the Marcellus Shale. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. spokesman George Stark told NGI’s Shale Daily the company had idled five drilling rigs on Monday, but they were back in operation on Tuesday afternoon. “We halted operations where we were drilling, [but] the storm did not materialize,” Stark said Tuesday. … Stark added that he knew some people were “concerned about flooding and [hydraulic fracturing waste] pits overflowing. But we operate a closed-loop system, so there is no opportunity for pits to flood or reserve pits or impoundments [to overflow] because we don’t operate them. That’s the benefit of a closed-loop system.” Matt Pitzarella, spokesman for Range Resources Inc., told NGI’s Shale Daily the company … “didn’t have any damages, stoppages or issues associated with [Sandy]… Right now our primary focus is being attentive to our customers: the end-users, the utilities and those companies that may have had service disrupted downstream…” The hurricane prompted the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) to postpone its Transportation Safety Day and Flagger Training program scheduled for Tuesday in Mansfield, which is in Tioga County, PA. … “The safety of our workers and communities is the paramount value for our industry and a cornerstone of the Transportation Safety Day program,” MSC President Kathryn Klaber said. (NGI’s Shale Daily, 10/31/12)
  • Pa. DEP: No “reports that there have been any spills or other issues”: Carol French of Bradford County, Pa., said she hasn’t seen any flooding at natural gas sites in her area as a result of Sandy. Other residents and state officials also said there were no apparent problems, and expressed relief that many areas did not get as much rain as was expected with the storm. “Knock on wood. I’m happy,” said French, who lives and works on a dairy farm in low-lying land that borders a creek and natural gas wells. … Kevin Sunday, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, also noted the potential for the contamination of soil and waterways, despite state regulations that include a required 2 feet of clearance in wastewater pits. “Fortunately, we have not gotten reports that there have been any spills or other issues,” Sunday said. Days before Sandy’s landfall, state officials sent letters to natural gas operators. “We told them it could be one of the most severe weather events ever, and asked them to essentially batten down the hatches ahead of time — to secure any active sites, remove equipment from areas that might experience flooding and manage flowback impoundments to prevent overtopping,” Sunday said. … Kathryn Z. Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition industry group, expressed her optimism that fracking operations weathered the storm safely. “Our operators have in place exhaustive contingency plans related to severe weather conditions,” she told The Huffington Post in an email. “The safety of our workers and communities is paramount at this point in time as our attention is focused on the environmental, health and safety protections associated with our industry operations and the communities we call home.” (Huffington Post, 11/1/12)

**UPDATE**

  • Locally, Gas Companies Largely Unaffected by Hurricane Sandy: Hurricane Sandy pounded the Northeast in late October, causing widespread power outages, dangerous winds and even heavy amounts of snow along areas in its path. It was described by some as a “Superstorm” that many may not see again in their lifetimes. For northeastern Pennsylvania, it brought back recent memories of the destruction caused by Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene over a year ago, when record flooding devastated the area. It brought back memories for the gas companies operating in the area as well, and they all took numerous steps to make sure they were prepared yet again. Within a week after the storm, the following natural gas companies provided information about how they fared. (Towanda Daily Review, 11/20/12)

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