Washington Observer-Reporter: Company reduces carbon footprint

By Tara Kinsell, Staff writer

CARMICHAELS – Energy Corp. of America is one of the smaller players in the Marcellus Shale drilling operations taking place in Greene County. But, ECA is working hard to be a leader in the reduction of the carbon footprint left behind by drilling, according to Kyle Mork, vice president of eastern operations.

Advances in technology have enabled the company to find unique ways to be at the forefront of “industry putting its money where its mouth is. We are one of the first case studies in that,” said Callum Streeter, drilling completions manager.

There are several ways ECA reduces its impact on the environment. One of the latest is through the implementation of a Bi-Fuel System.

A development of Helmerich and Payne International Drilling Contractors, the system allows drilling rigs to be fueled by a 50/50 blend of diesel fuel blended with the natural gas being drilled on site.

Although this technology has been used previously in other states where drilling is taking place, ECA representatives said they believe they are the first in the Marcellus Shale play to employ it.

ECA representatives estimated it takes an average of 2,000 gallons of fuel daily to run a drilling rig, and this Bi-Fuel System reduces that amount by 70 percent.

Air quality also is impacted by the use of this new technology, according to ECA. Emissions testing data has shown a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 31 tons per year and less impact of nitrogen oxide, carnon monoxide and total particulate matter, according to ECA.

At their drilling site in Cumberland Township, ECA operates on the Bi-Fuel System and also has employed electricity to run equipment instead of diesel fuel, reducing the noise level of the rig greatly, Streeter said.

This site is currently laid out to drill six wells, nearly side-by-side. The drill rig being used moves from one well pad to the next over a system of rails. Mork estimated the time it takes to drill one well at roughly 10 days. In two months, this site will be drilled and ready to begin production of natural gas, he said.

“ECA concentrates on drilling in central areas,” Mork said.

By not having wells spread out at locations several miles apart, he said his company spends less money, tears up fewer roads and emissions are reduced greatly by the lack of back-and-forth traveling from well to well.

In addition to centralized drilling, using electricity and the Bi-Fuel System, ECA is working with fresh water from permitted wells to supply the necessary water for drilling operations. Mork said it has been two years since they took water out of the Monongahela River, even though they are permitted to do so.

The motors used to pump the fresh water through pipes to their well pads are commercial grade engines the company had converted to run on the natural gas they are extracting.

“By pumping the water from our own fresh water, we’ve eliminated over 2,000 truckloads of water on the road over a year. It is pumped to the pit and pumped to the job. There is no hauling,” said Hugh Caperton II, operations manager for ECA. “That is over 10 million ton miles on state roads. We only have a 5-to-10-minute drive to all of our locations. We are not trying to jump around to hold leases. The more wells we can put on a pad the better for everybody.”

Caperton credited company president and CEO, John Mork for having the vision to seek out technology to run their equipment from the gas they extract.

“Our president said, ‘guys, run it off of the gas,'” Caperton said. “We are at the front end of this.”

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