Wednesday, May 17, 2017

DEP: Conventional Oil & Gas Well Violations Up Nearly 80 Percent In 2016

The Department of Environmental Protection Wednesday reported violations by conventional oil and gas operations rose nearly 80 percent in 2016 and fines and penalties collected from both conventional and unconventional (Marcellus Shale) well operators nearly tripled to over $9.6 million.
The figures were included in DEP’s 2016 Oil and Gas Annual Report which this year is in an interactive, electronic format to improve public access to well information. It’s the first time the report has been published electronically.
“Pennsylvania is the second-largest producer of natural gas in the country and one of the most transparent states in making oil and gas data publicly accessible,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Making the Annual Report completely digital is just the next step in our continued effort to share as much information as possible.”
Conventional well violations increased from 1,024 violations in 2015 to 1,834 violations last year and unconventional well violations increased from 404 to 456 in 2016, breaking a downward trend since 2011. 
The violations were the result of over 35,500 compliance inspections in 2016, which is also up from 2015 when there were 34,604 inspections done.  There were 15,192 inspections of unconventional (Marcellus Shale) well sites and 15,989 inspections of conventional wells in 2016.
The fines and penalties collected in calendar year 2016 are a result of significant violations observed at a relatively small number of enforcement actions. For example, in 2016 nine violations resulted in the levy of about $8.4 million of the $9.7 million collected in total during 2016.
The number of unconventional well drilling permits issued in 2016 decreased 59 percent since 2014. The total number of conventional well drilling permits issued in 2016 decreased 87 percent since 2014.
There were 1,321 unconventional well drilling permits issued in 2016 and 158 conventional well drilling permits.
In the first three months of 2017, the number of unconventional wells drilled is  up 60 percent.
Recent trends are also noted throughout the report. For example, in 2016 natural gas production from unconventional wells reached its highest level (about 5.1 trillion cubic feet) while the number of new unconventional wells drilled was the lowest since 2008.
Much more detailed information is readily available. For example, not only is the number of unconventional well drilling permits per county shown (1,321 total), but the permits are mapped. By clicking on a location, anyone can obtain the permit number, operator name, issuance date, and other information.
For a deeper dive, visitors can use the permit number and click into the Oil and Gas Mapping site to learn production data, inspection results, and any compliance actions taken by DEP.
The 2016 Annual Report features an expanded section on public participation. Visitors can learn how to attend Oil and Gas Technical Advisory Board meetings in person or by webinar; provide e-comments on regulations, policies, general permits, and other proposals under development; and sign up for email notifications.
“We encourage Pennsylvanians to use the 2016 Annual Report to dig into information that’s relevant to them in their backyards and to all of us in the commonwealth, and we welcome their engagement,” said McDonnell.
Built on the ESRI platform, data are geolocated in GIS maps and real-time, drawing from DEP’s daily electronic compliance tracking system updates. The report presents 2016 data on permit activity, inspections, operator compliance, and enforcements for conventional and unconventional wells.
Visit DEP’s 2016 Oil and Gas Report webpage for all the details.
Related Story:
DEP: New Marcellus Shale Wells Drilled In First 3 Months Up Over 60 Percent

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