Protection throughout the Operational Lifecycle
We consider stewardship and biodiversity protection at every stage of our operations, from site assessment to well closure.
Recognizing the critical role biodiversity — species, habitats and ecosystems — plays in land sustainability, we are committed to minimizing our impacts. Before starting construction, we carefully assess the varying aspects of a proposed location, from its geography and topography to the potential existence of sensitive wildlife habitat, cultural resources, residences and other public-occupied sites.
Protection of the nation’s waters, including streams, wetlands and floodplains, is also important to our assessment. In alignment with federal and state regulations, our analysis includes both a desktop and field review to identify the presence or absence of these sensitive receptors.
Site Assessment Protection Areas
Aquatic Resources and Floodplains
Historical and Cultural Resources
Central to our program procedures is going above and beyond compliance requirements. This means flagging any sensitivities within the proposed limits of disturbance (LOD) of our operations, plus a minimum of 100 feet beyond the LOD. If an environmentally sensitive receptor or cultural resource is identified within the proposed LOD, we avoid or minimize impacts by relocating site activity or developing a plan to protect the resource.
Site Assessment Procedures
Corporate HSER Teams
- Locate asset and establish LOD
- Conduct initial site assessment to identify environmental or cultural sensitivities
- Forward findings to field review
Trained HSER Personnel Supporting Qualified Third-Party Contractors
- Conduct field visit to determine potential environmental or cultural receptors
- Identify positioning of receptors within study area
- Document results and collaborate with corporate team
HSER and Operations Partnership
- Review findings and determine if construction will impact receptors
- Obtain environmental permitting as required
- Redesign, move or adjust the timing of construction activities for environmental protection
- Map assessment results to build comprehensive database
We work closely with stakeholder groups, including landowners and federal, state and local governments, to coordinate site planning and protect any areas or species of concern. Our focus is to mitigate and minimize our environmental impact by redesigning, moving or adjusting the timing of construction activities.
For example, we regularly adhere to seasonal timing stipulations to avoid impacts to sensitive species and migratory birds. During nesting season, surveys are conducted to determine if there are active nests in construction areas. If active nests are found, we avoid disturbance of the area until all fledglings have left the nest.
Opportunities for Improvement
Even with these best practices in place, we remain committed to continuous improvement in reducing our environmental impact. Chesapeake sites are typically inspected at least once per year by local regulatory agencies, resulting in hundreds of inspections of our operational activities. As a result of these inspections, in 2021, Chesapeake was issued 28 environmental violations, defined as any fluid or gas release to the surface, waters or air or noncompliant biodiversity impacts.
The majority of these 2021 environmental violations related to minor liquid spills. As noted in our spill prevention section, we are dedicated to reducing our spills and have tied our compensation program to our spill prevention performance to further incentivize improvement. We are also committed to learning and improving from incidents, no matter their size or impact. Each week, Operational and HSER leaders review company incidents, including violation notices, to ensure corrective actions are taken and to identify opportunities for continuous improvement.
Also in 2021, Chesapeake paid one penalty ($1,024,499) for wetland and stream impacts occurring in our Marcellus operations from 2005 to 2014. Following a change in company leadership and an internal environmental audit, we voluntarily self-disclosed the impacts to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As part of the mitigation consent decree, and in addition to the penalty, we committed to fully restore or provide offsite compensatory mitigation for the impacted sites as reviewed by the Pennsylvania DEP. We continue to successfully partner with the Pennsylvania DEP, EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on remediation efforts.
Immediately after the self-disclosure in 2014, we developed and implemented a formal site assessment program as a company-wide standard.
When announcing the fine in 2021, the Pennsylvania DEP commended Chesapeake for voluntarily disclosing the violations and committing to a detailed and specific process for returning the sites to compliance. DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell also stated that “the settlement is a significant benefit to Pennsylvania’s public natural resources through restoration and replacement and, in particular, will result in a net increase of wetlands in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”(1)
As we prepare for the drilling phase of our operations, multiple layers of protective steel casing, surrounded by cement, are installed to protect freshwater aquifers and other natural resources. We engineer our wellbore design to prevent the migration of produced fluids and hydrocarbons. We also work with regulatory agencies to help ensure we meet or exceed guidelines for wellbore construction. These guidelines often vary by jurisdiction in response to each state’s unique geology.
Systematic monitoring takes place during drilling to safeguard the well for environmental and economic reasons. Each well is monitored by both the on-site Drilling team and our Operations Support Center (OSC) based in Oklahoma City. These teams work in tandem to monitor data and alerts, helping ensure drilling and wellbore construction accuracy.
One example of the importance of this monitoring is when drilling occurs near an offset well. It is Chesapeake’s practice to conduct an anti-collision analysis prior to drilling to minimize the risk of interacting with a nearby well. Should our acreage be adjacent to that of another company, we coordinate with the neighboring company to identify its well locations and align our activity schedules.
Multi-well pad sites are central to our operational strategy, improving efficiencies while limiting environmental impacts. Utilizing a single site to drill multiple wells results in fewer emissions associated with equipment moves, less surface disturbance and responsible sizing of our operational footprint.
After preparing the well during the drilling stage, we utilize hydraulic fracturing to stimulate and recover oil and natural gas resources. We employ the use of hydraulic fracturing technology for all wells and are committed to industry best practices in well integrity and chemical use.
We take a proactive approach to reducing or replacing the chemicals used in our hydraulic fracturing process through our GreenFrac® initiative. GreenFrac challenges Chesapeake engineers to evaluate the necessity of each chemical additive and determine if a more environmentally friendly option could be used.
In many of our operating areas we’ve implemented high-viscosity friction reducers, which largely eliminate the need for gelled fluid systems. In the Eagle Ford Shale and Haynesville Shale, we use crosslink systems only when needed.
Since 2011, Chesapeake has not used diesel, a common fuel and carrier solvent known to contain BTEX, in any concentration within our hydraulic fracturing chemistries.
For further transparency around the hydraulic fracturing process, we disclose the ingredients contained within completion fluids to state regulatory agencies and to the public on fracfocus.org. FracFocus, a web-based registry with support from the U.S. Department of Energy, provides detail on completion process additives, chemicals and the amount of water used, as reported by oil and natural gas operators. Chesapeake was an early supporter of FracFocus, championing the site and contributing to its development.
When reporting to FracFocus, Chesapeake utilizes information supplied to us by our vendors in the form of Safety Data Sheets (SDS). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) governs the information that’s supplied on the SDS and, in certain situations, allows a manufacturer or vendor to withhold specific information about a chemical or substance to protect confidential business information (CBI) or proprietary trade secret information. However, the manufacturer is required to report all pertinent health hazard warnings associated with any ingredient declared as CBI.
We encourage our additive suppliers to be as transparent as possible regarding the composition of their products. For example, we support our service providers reporting both the actual additives used in their hydraulic fracturing operations and, separately, the individual chemistries contained in the additives. Companies can enhance reporting transparency and maintain formulation confidentiality by keeping individual chemicals separate from their respective additives.
We’ve reported 100% of our well completions, more than 7,800 disclosures, to FracFocus since 2011.
Throughout a well’s lifecycle, protecting both the wellbore and the pad site is paramount. Chesapeake utilizes a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system for monitoring different aspects of a well’s performance during its life stages. Through a series of sensors on or near the well and its accompanying facilities, SCADA collects data that’s monitored by our OSC employees.
- Pressure in wells and surface vessels
- Liquid levels in tanks
- Open/closed valve positions
- Well downtime
- Mobile SCADA — application used to access SCADA data on mobile devices
Should data indicate a potential concern, OSC team members alert field employees to investigate. Our proprietary WellTender mobile application also uses this site-sensor data. WellTender acts as a dispatch system, automatically delivering alarms directly to the field, including downtime-related notifications. Lease operators, as the end users, receive a list of prioritized wells, allowing them to investigate and address issues more efficiently.
Not only does WellTender prioritize well visits, but it makes data available to most team members. In the past, lease operators could only review their personal routes via mobile technology. With WellTender, if a lease operator is out of the office, another team member can assume their priority wells.
Decommissioning and Site Restoration
After completing site operations, we work to restore the site to its original topographic condition, planting native seed mixes and vegetation to further promote the biodiversity of the area. In addition to meeting all regulatory plugging and restoration requirements, we partner with site owners to accommodate their preferences for their land. We continue site monitoring until we have secured both landowner and regulatory approval of our restoration efforts.
Each state regulates this process differently and Chesapeake follows applicable rules when managing inactive wells. Specific to each state, many regulations require a series of cement plugs placed inside the wellbore, across any hydrocarbon-bearing formations and freshwater aquifers. Testing is also often required to confirm there is no escape of hydrocarbon-containing materials.
(1) PA DEP. (2021, March 24) DEP, EPA, And DOJ Reach $1.9 Million Agreement With Chesapeake Appalachia Over Wetland And Stream Violations [Press release].