Monday, October 2, 2023

Repsol Gas USA Issued Violation For Denying DEP Right To Document Damaged Shale Gas Well Casing During Investigation Of Uncontrolled Gas Venting In Bradford County

On September 21, the Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation to
Repsol Oil and Gas USA, LLC for denying the agency’s right to document damaged shale gas well casing during its investigation of an incident of uncontrolled natural gas venting in Bradford County in August.

The venting of natural gas started on or about August 27, according to the company, and involved gas venting from 13+ and 9+ inch annulus vents on the 9H shale gas well at the Cummings Lumber well pad in Troy Township, Bradford County.

The incident resulted in a temporary one-half mile evacuation order around the well and a precautionary cancellation of events at the Troy Area School District.  Read more here.

Repsol and its contractors started efforts to regain control of the well pad by plugging shale gas wells 8H and 10H on the pad with heavy mud August 30 [DEP inspection report].

Efforts to plug the leaking 9H well with heavy drilling mud began on August 31 [DEP inspection report] and by September 12 DEP reported there was no gas venting from the well after the installation of a temporary plug [DEP inspection report].

Denying Right To Document

In a recently filed September 21, 2023 inspection report, DEP said-- “Repsol restricted the Department’s ability to document the condition of the damaged casing during an inspection conducted on 9/21/2023.”

DEP’s inspector returned to the site the following day-- September 22-- and this time was allowed to photograph the damaged sections of well casing.  Repsol also provided photos of the casing damage.

Compliance Report Due Oct. 9

As a result of the most recent inspections and the other still outstanding notices of violations surrounding the incident, DEP requested Repsol Oil to submit a written report by October 9, 2023 on how it will bring the well into compliance.

DEP also requested Repsol Oil to also submit a “Root Cause Analysis” of the venting  incident by October 9, 2023. [DEP inspection report]

The notices of violations issued so far to Repsol include--

-- Failure to prevent the flow of natural gas from the well and the loss of production fluids (8.28.23);

-- Failure to maintain the well to protect health, safety, the environment and property (8.28.23)

-- Failure to allow inspection and production of materials, witnesses, depositions and rights of entry-preoperation inspections (9.21.23)

Other Denials Of Access

DEP has also issued notices of violation to Equitrans for access to facilities, in particular, involving the uncontrolled release of over 1.1 billion cubic feet of natural gas from its Rager Mountain Gas Storage Facility in Cambria County in November 2022.

The natural gas release was one of the largest in the world in 2022.

On September 6, 2023, DEP issued a second round of notices of violation to Equitrans for “failing to provide DEP free and unrestricted entry or access” for the purpose of “conducting inspections of assets owned and/or operated by Equitrans.” Read more here.

DEP gave NOVs to Equitrans for denying access to the incident site just after the venting began on November 7, 2022 [Read more here] and by November 15 had issued a total of five NOVs for failure to provide access.  [Read more here]

Why This Is Important

The right of a DEP inspector to access a site and take actions to investigate and enforce the law and regulations is fundamental.  

The right to access is included in Section 3258 of the Oil and Gas Act of 2012--

“The department may make inspections, conduct tests or sampling or examine books, papers and records pertinent to a matter under investigation under this chapter to determine compliance with this chapter. For this purpose, the duly authorized agents and employees of the department may at all reasonable times enter and examine any involved property, facility, operation or activity.”

Violations of this responsibility by oil and gas operators means DEP can not do its job.

In the case of the Repsol well pad incident, without being able to document the damage with photographic evidence, DEP’s inspector could not have provided first-hand information on the circumstances under which the photographs were taken to go along with a verbal report and whether the photographs themselves have been altered in any way.

Both violations of Section 3258 of the Oil and Gas Act happen to occur during the biggest uncontrolled natural gas venting incidents Pennsylvania has experienced in recent years.

Report Violations

To report oil and gas violations or any environmental emergency or complaint, visit DEP’s Environmental Complaint webpage.

Check These Resources

Visit DEP’s Compliance Reporting Database webpage to search their compliance records by date and operator and the Inspection Reports Viewer.

Sign up for DEP’s eNOTICE service which sends you information on oil and gas and other permits submitted to DEP for review in your community.

Related Articles:

-- DEP Responds To Emergency Notification Of Uncontrolled Venting Of Natural Gas For Over 10.5 Hours From A Repsol Oil Shale Gas Well; Temporary Evacuation Order Issued In Bradford County   [PaEN - 8.30.23]

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - September 2 to 8; Equitrans Issued NOVs For Failing To Provide DEP Inspectors Access To Facilities As Requested   [PaEN - 9.9.23]

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Sept. 30 to Oct. 6 -- Company Tries To Limit DEP Investigation; Unauthorized Water Withdrawals; Can’t Pay For Reno Cleanup; Venting Gas Wells; More Abandoned Conventional Wells  [PaEN] 

        -- Repsol Gas USA Issued Violation For Denying DEP Right To Document Damaged Shale Gas Well Casing During Investigation Of Uncontrolled Gas Venting In Bradford County  [PaEN]

        -- DEP Issues Violation To CNX Gas Company For Unauthorized Water Withdrawals For 17 Days From Beaver Run Reservoir In Westmoreland County  [PaEN]

        -- Petro Erie Inc. Again Claims It Lacks The Financial Ability To Comply With DEP’s 2nd Order To Cleanup Conventional Oil Well Wastewater Spill That Contaminated The Village Of Reno’s Water Supply In Venango County  [PaEN]

        -- Environmental Hearing Board Will Hear Key Arguments On Appeal By A Washington County Family Alleging Shale Gas Drilling Contaminated Their Water Supply With PFAS And Other Chemicals  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - October 7   [PaEN]

        -- DEP Invites Comments On PA General Energy Constructing 3 Shale Natural Gas, Water Pipelines Thru Exceptional Value, High Quality, Wild Trout Streams In Lycoming County  [PaEN] 

        -- DEP Now Accepting Comments On 2 Proposed Olympus Energy Water Withdrawal Structures At Beaver Run Reservoir To Support Shale Gas Development In Westmoreland County  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posted 69 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In October 7 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]  

NewsClips This Week - Shale Gas:

-- WPXI: Activists, Washington County Residents Concerned After Study Explores Link Between Natural Gas Development, Cancer

-- Orphan Conventional Oil & Gas Wells Hard To Plug, Despite Influx Of Federal Dollars In PA, OH

-- JD Supra: Repurposing Oil & Gas Wells For Ground-Sourced Heat Energy In PA Raises Multiple Legal Issues

-- AP: PA Chocolate Factory Fined For Failing To Evacuate Before Fatal Natural Gas Explosion

-- TribLive: Car Rally Held To Raise Money For Rustic Ridge Families Impacted By Home Explosion, Fires In Allegheny County

-- TribLive: At 16%, Westmoreland County Tops Local Population Loss Estimates  

-- Post-Gazette: Study: Westmoreland County Will Lead Population Decline In Western PA, While Others Will Boom

-- PA Capital-Star: Population Projections Highlight Need For Long-Term Solutions To Sustain Rural PA Communities; Population Expected To Shrink By 5.8% 

-- Forbes: How One Contrarian Company [Mostly Conventional Oil & Gas Well Owner Diversified Energy] Thrives In A Shale And Gas World  [Check The Company’s Compliance Record In PA ]

-- WOSU: The State Of Natural Gas Development/Fracking In Ohio 

-- Observer-Reporter: DEP Secretary To Be Featured Speaker At Washington & Jefferson Hydrogen Seminar

-- TribLive: Columbia Gas Tests Hydrogen Blends In Natural Gas Appliances

-- Reuters: Equitrans Reaches Agreement With US Regulator For Mountain Valley Pipeline For Inspections, Integrity Testing, Among Other Measures

Related Articles This Week:

-- House Unanimously Passes Bill Against Lawsuits Aimed At Silencing Citizen Critics And Dampening Public Participation  [PaEN]

-- Dickinson College Environmental & Indigenous Rights Honoree Tara Houska: Don’t Disconnect Yourself From The Reality Of Nature; Endless Expansion Of Pipelines Have No Place In Reality; Find Powerful Moments Of Joy  [PaEN]

-- DEP Updates Location Of Scranton Public Hearing On Interim Final Environmental Justice Permit Review Policy  [PaEN]

-- Member Of Pine Creek Headwaters Protection Group Briefs DCNR Advisory Council On Siting Of Shale Gas Well Pad On State Forest Land To Accommodate Taking Gas From Private Land In Tioga County  [PaEN]

-- Agencies Celebrate Eastern Hellbender License Plate Recognizing PA’s Clean Water Ambassador; Shale Gas Development On DCNR Land Threatens Habitat  [PaEN]

-- DCNR Announces Appointment Of Seth Cassell As Pennsylvania's 18th State Forester  [PaEN]

-- The Allegheny Front: Three Rivers Waterkeeper Citizen Monitoring Finds Plastics Maker Styrenics LLC Discharging Plastic Nurdles Into Ohio River, Threatens Lawsuit To Stop Them  - By Reid Frazier  [PaEN]

-- PUC: Focus Of Natural Gas Explosion In Port Richmond Section Of Philadelphia Now Inside The Buildings  [PaEN]

-- Center For Rural Pennsylvania: Rural Population To Shrink 5.8%; Fewer Young People, More Older People; Current Policies Failed To Sustain Communities, Ensure Long-Term Rural Resiliency  [PaEN]

-- PA Interfaith Power & Light 10th Annual Conference- No Faith In Fossil Fuels - Nov. 5: Virtual Keynote & Panel Discussion, 5 Regional Workshop Locations  [PaEN]

-- Washington & Jefferson College Hosts Oct. 17 In-Person Harnessing Hydrogen: Exploring Local & Regional Opportunities In Appalachia Program  [PaEN]

[Posted: October 2, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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