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Pennsylvania

DEP report: Natural gas data shows low number of gas migration, leak issues in 2014

Patrick Varine
| Friday, April 13, 2018, 3:12 p.m.
A drilling rig towers over the walls of Huntley and Huntley Energy Exploration's Poseidon well pad, in Penn Township, as seen on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
A drilling rig towers over the walls of Huntley and Huntley Energy Exploration's Poseidon well pad, in Penn Township, as seen on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has released 2014 data from its Mechanical Integrity Assessment Program , which DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell called the most rigorous in the United States.

“We're committed to protecting Pennsylvanians' health, safety, and environment through continuous improvement of our regulatory oversight of the oil and gas industry,” McDonnell said.

Unconventional and conventional operators are required to inspect wells on a quarterly basis for structural soundness to ensure that gas migration is prevented, leaks are managed, and groundwater is protected. DEP reviews operators' submitted data for potential problems and violations.

A comprehensive analysis (including file audits and independent site verification) of data submitted in 2014 showed that less than 1 percent of operator observations indicated the types of integrity problems, such as gas outside surface casing, that could allow gas to move beyond the well footprint.

The movement of gas or other fluids beyond a well footprint has the greatest potential to result in environmental concerns, DEP officials said.

“This report, like countless others, reflects that natural gas development and strong protection for our environment are not mutually exclusive,” said Marcellus Shale Coalition President David Spigelmyer. ““Our industry is laser-focused on leveraging continuously improving technologies, world-class engineering solutions and best practices aimed at safeguarding and enhancing our environment, including groundwater protection, as well as public health.”

The DEP's study validated operator-reported data by auditing reports from more than 90 randomly-selected wells in Lycoming, Greene, Washington, McKean and Indiana counties.

Pennsylvania is the only state requiring quarterly mechanical integrity inspections of all operating wells, according to the DEP report.

DEP officials said they had received reports for about 99 percent of unconventional wells in the state and between 50 and 60 percent of conventional wells.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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