Thursday, November 30, 2023

DEP- EQT Settlement Agreement Allows Fracking To Resume From 2 Shale Gas Well Pads In Area Impacted By Frack-Out In New Freeport, Greene County; Does Not Address Water Supply Issues Of Residents

On November 29, the Environmental Hearing Board
accepted a settlement agreement between the Department of Environmental Protection and EQT Production Company involving appeals of DEP actions related to a June 19, 2022 frack-out and the Lumber and Spleen Splitter shale gas well pads in Springhill Township, Greene County.

             A “frack-out” occurs when fracking fluid is pumped down a shale gas well under pressure to fracture shale rock to promote natural gas flow, but instead finds an abandoned conventional oil and gas well and follows that well up to groundwater aquifers and sometimes blows out on the ground surface like a geyser.

             On June 19, 2022, EQT reported a “possible communication” between its 13H lateral well and an abandoned conventional oil or gas well [Fox Hill No. 1] while fracking two new wells at its Lumber pad along Martin Hill Road near New Freeport in Greene County.  Read more here.

             Since June 2022, the Center for Coalfield Justice has been helping to provide drinking water to those families in the community who believe their well water was impacted by the frack-out.  Read more here.

             Lumber Pad

             The appeals followed a August 10, 2023 letter from DEP to EQT providing limited approval of a revised Area of Review plan for the Lumber shale gas well pad.  The letter noted EQT did not include a Root Cause Analysis for the June 2022 “communication incident” [frack-out] involving the Lumber shale gas well pad.  

             An Area of Review plan around a shale gas pad identifies oil and gas and other wells that could serve as a conduit for fracking fluids or gas posing a danger to public health and the environment.

             The DEP letter said it would only approve a proposed “controlled injection test” of the Lumber 13H shale gas well for the purpose of developing a Root Cause Analysis of the frack-out as part of a revised Lumber well pad Area of Review plan.

             The letter laid out monitoring requirements for the test, including an update to the microseismic array monitoring map.

              Spleen Splitter Pad

             Also on August 10, 2023, DEP wrote a letter to EQT denying the Area of Review plan for the Spleen Splitter shale gas well pad because shale gas laterals from this well pad straddle the Fox Hill No. 1 conventional well that was involved in the June 19, 2022 frack-out and the Area of Review plan does not provide a Root Cause Analysis of how or why the “communication incident” occurred.

               DEP’s letter explained, “The Spleen Splitter Revised AOR submission indicates an overlap with the EQT submittal [Lumber well pad Revised AOR] dated June 10, 2023.  In other words, the drilled Spleen Splitter laterals 2H, WH and 6H straddle the Fox Hill No. 1 [conventional well] where the communication event occurred from the Lumber 13H lateral.”

             “Neither the Lumber AOR nor the Lumber Revised AOR have provided a Root Cause Analysis on how or why the communication incident occurred.

             “Without identifying a [Root Cause Analysis]  in the Lumber Revised AOR, the Spleen Splitter Revised AOR is inadequate due to the lack of support for a geological separation between the Spleen Splitter and Fox Hill No. 1 [conventional well], which cannot sufficiently conclude that a communication incident will not happen again.”

             “The proposed hydraulic fracturing of the Spleen Splitter wells, at present, cannot be assured to be implemented in a manner that appropriately mitigates the risk of a transfer of measurable pressure or fluid flow to wells in the Spleen Splitter Revised AOR, which includes Fox Hill No. 1.”

             “The Spleen Splitter Revised AOR may be approved if all issues can be resolved in the Lumber Revised AOR which includes a [Root Cause Analysis] of the communication incident from the Lumber lateral 13H to the Fox Hill No. 1 offset well, which will be directly relevant in hydraulic fracturing the intersecting Spleen Splitter wells.”

             EQT Appeals

             On September 11, 2023, EQT filed appeals of the Lumber well pad and Spleen Splitter well pad August 10, 2023 DEP letters to the Environmental Hearing Board, which consolidated the appeals.  [Docket # 2023071]

             EQT said in the appeal it submitted on the Lumber well pad actions, that the results of its investigation of the potential June 19, 2022 frack-out incident were submitted to DEP on June 10, 2023, along with a revised Area of Review plan.

             EQT said its investigation concluded there “is no evidence of communication between Lumber 13H and Fox Hill 1” noting the water “burping” from the Fox Hill 1 well recurred without nearby well stimulation [fracking] happening.

             EQT DEP “has not made factual findings to support the existence of any communication between the Lumber wells and Fox Hill 1.”

             In its appeal of the Spleen Splitter well pad actions, EQT said DEP went beyond a February 23, 2023 settlement of earlier appeals involving the well pad by setting additional requirements on continued fracking at the pad not included in that earlier settlement.

             After completing drilling of the Spleen Splitter wells, EQT said it submitted the required monitoring of conventional wells within 2,500 feet of the Spleen Splitter 1H and 3H laterals and the use of a microseismic array to detect subsurface conditions in real time.

             EQT said DEP’s August 10, 2023 letter denying the Area of Review plan for the Spleen Splitter wells amounted to “denying EQT the ability to hydraulically fracture the Spleen Splitter wells that it had drilled.”


            The DEP - EQT settlement agreement covering these appeals requires, among other actions--

Lumber Well Pad

-- Fracking of the Lumber 13H well may resume along with implementation of microseismic and other monitoring required by DEP in previously issued letters.  All stimulation activities at the Lumber pad are to cease if certain parameters are exceeded. 

-- Fracking of the Lumber 15H well may start after 13H is completed with implementation of the microseismic and other monitoring.  All stimulation activities at the Lumber pad are to cease if certain parameters are exceeded. 

-- After fracking of Lumber 13H and 15H are completed, EQT may complete fracking the remaining wells on the Lumber pad using a “zipper frac” method.

            Spleen Splitter Pad

-- EQT will implement microseismic monitoring as described in previously issued DEP letters for six wells at the pad and will cease activities if certain parameters are exceeded.

-- EQT may complete the wells at the pad using the “zipper frac” method.

             Follow Up

-- EQT will provide a full list of chemicals used in the frac fluids and provide SDS sheets and FracFocus information to DEP.

-- EQT will keep the Fox Hill 1 conventional well open for monitoring purposes.

-- EQT is to submit a causation report related to the incident at the Fox Hill 1 well within eight weeks of completing the monitored fracking operations authorized under the settlement.  The report is to be prepared by a geologic professional and includes monitoring results from both the Lumber and Spleen Splitter well pads.

             Does Not Address Water Well Impacts Of Residents

             The DEP-EQT settlement includes no provisions addressing water well impacts of residents near New Freeport in Greene County.

             Click Here for a copy of the settlement.

Related Articles - New Freeport:

-- Community Demands Accountability From EQT Natural Gas On 1-Year Anniversary Of Greene County Frack-Out Incident; Families Still Without Clean Water; No DEP Investigation Results  [PaEN] 

-- Center For Coalfield Justice: Nearly 11 Months Since An EQT Shale Gas Well Frack-Out Left Residents Near New Freeport, Greene County Without Clean Water; DEP’s Investigation Not Complete   [PaEN]

-- Families Affected By Alleged ‘Frack-Out’ In Greene County Have A Little Happier Holiday Thanks To Water Donated By Center For Coalfield Justice [PaEN]

-- Center For Coalfield Justice Holds First Water Distribution Day Nov. 19 To Help Provide Families Drinking Water In Greene County Following Alleged ‘Frack-Out’ At Natural Gas Well Site In June  [PaEN]

-- Observer-Reporter: Ongoing Water Donation Drive Helping Dozens Of Greene County Families Who Haven’t Had Clean Drinking Water Since June Following Alleged ‘Frack-Out’ At Natural Gas Well Site [PaEN]

PA Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- PA Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Nov. 25 to Dec. 1 - 13 More Abandoned Conventional Well NOVs; Failure To Report Water Supply Impact In July  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industry Compliance So Far In 2023 - It Isn’t Pretty

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - December 2  [PaEN]

-- DEP Invites Comments On Proposed CNX Midstream Project To Expose Natural Gas, Water Pipelines To Prevent Longwall Mining Damage In Washington County  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posted 71 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In December 2 PA Bulletin  [PaEN]  

Related Articles This Week:

-- DEP- EQT Settlement Agreement Allows Fracking To Resume From 2 Shale Gas Well Pads In Area Impacted By Frack-Out In New Freeport, Greene County; Does Not Address Water Supply Issues Of Residents  [PaEN]

-- DEP Oil & Gas Advisory Board Meets Dec. 5 On Methane Reduction Program; Spill Policy; Chapter 78 Update; Certified Inspector Program; Injection Well Primacy  [PaEN]

-- EPA Finalizes Rule To Reduce Methane Emissions From Oil & Gas Infrastructure; DEP’s  Oil & Gas Methane Regulations 1 Year Old  [PaEN] 

-- Sen. Gene Yaw Announces He Received The Marcellus Shale Coalition 2023 Shale Gas Advocate Award [After Calling Gas Infrastructure Health, Safety Proposal ‘Stupid’]  [PaEN]

-- PUC Again Reminds Consumers Of Dec. 1 Price Changes: Natural Gas (+149% to -64.2%); Electric (+18.8% to -25.7%)  [PaEN]

NewsClips This Week:

-- PA Capital-Star: A Year After Winter Storm Elliot, Natural Gas-Fired, Other Power Plant Problems ‘Still Likely’ In Extreme Weather

-- The Allegheny Front: Tour Of PA Natural Gas Fracking Sites Connects Activists From Appalachia And The Gulf Coast 

-- Environmental Health News: Gov. Shapiro Directs Agencies To Draft New Regulations Improving Disclosure Of Fracking Chemicals

-- PA Manufacturers Assn. Opposes Bill To Reduce Natural Gas Infrastructure Threats To Public Health, Safety; Praises Sen. Yaw’s Position [Who Called The Bill ‘Stupid’]

-- PA Capital-Star Guest Essay: Time To Move On Natural Gas Development Safety Measures - By Molly Parzen, Conservation Voters Of PA

-- TribLive Letter: Stop Fracking In Murrysville Parks - By Meredith Juchniewicz

-- Bloomberg: Just One Stranded Natural Gas LNG Tanker In Australia Could Cause Rise In Global LNG Prices

[Posted: November 30, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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