Wednesday, January 31, 2024

DEP Issues Equitrans Midstream Violation For Not Plugging 19 Abandoned Conventional Wells At The Swarts Natural Gas Storage Field In Greene County; Conflicts With Coal Mining

On January 26, 2024, the Department of Environmental Protection
issued a notice of violation to Equitrans Midstream for abandoning and not plugging 19 conventional gas wells at the Swarts Natural Gas Storage Field in Greene County.

DEP said 17 of the wells were used for injection/withdrawal of natural gas and two were observation wells.

             DEP explained, “The 19 wells have not been utilized for injection or withdrawal since October 28, 2021 as the field was taken out of service for Equitrans to initiate the engineering redesign of the field.”

“After review, the Department has determined these 19 wells have been abandoned, consistent with the definition of “Abandoned well” established in 58 Pa CS Section 3203….”

According to DEP’s well list, many of the wells were originally drilled in the 1940s.

DEP requested a written report by February 24, 2024 on how Equitrans will bring the wells into compliance.

Click Here to read the NOV.

Conflict With Mining Operation

As early as June 2013, Equitrans was made aware by CONSOL that the mine operator planned or had conducted coal extraction activities in the Pittsburgh Coal Seam within 2,000 feet of the Swarts Gas Storage Field.

Equitrans was obligated to submit a verified statement that includes maps, an explanation of the operator’s due diligence in complying with state law, any additional efforts the operator is making and intends to make to locate wells, and any wells it intends to plug or recondition.

While Equitrans provided information to DEP at various times since passage of the Oil and Gas Act, it did not provide a verified statement pursuant to the Oil & Gas Act.

On December 26, 2018, DEP issued an administrative order to Equitrans demanding the required information regarding wells that have or may have been drilled into the Swarts Field’s storage horizon and other information.

             To avoid other conflicts with the CONSOL coal mining and gas storage areas, Equitrans plans to drill two new horizontal natural gas storage wells in the Swarts Complex and Hunters Cave Gas Storage Fields in Center, Franklin, Morris and Washington Townships, Greene County.  Read more here.

             On January 13, 2024, DEP issued a Water Quality Certification for the natural gas storage well replacement project.  Read more here.

             2019 Violations

             The environmental compliance record of Equitrans Midstreams is not encouraging.

On October 29, 2019, DEP signed a consent order and agreement with Equitrans Midstream that imposed a $650,000 penalty on the company for failure to identify the location of conventional gas wells used to service the Swarts Gas Storage Field in an area where coal is planned to be mined by CONSOL.  Read more here.

             The order followed an earlier order issued on December 26, 2018 DEP issued to Equitrans demanding the required information regarding wells that have or may have been drilled into the Swarts Field’s storage horizon and other information.   Read more here.

             Ultimately, Equitrans did submit the information DEP requested.

             Vented 1.1 Billion Cubic Feet Of Natural Gas In 2022

             In November 2022, Equitrans Midstream Corp. had an uncontrolled leak of natural gas from the Rager Mountain Storage Facility in Cambria County, one of the largest natural gas leaks in the world in 2022.  Read more here.

Equitrans confirmed that over 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas was vented into the atmosphere from the underground storage facility during the leak.  Read more here.

Equitrans said the direct cause of the venting from Rager well #2244 was due to water- and oxygen-induced corrosion on the outside diameter of the top joint of the well and the infiltration of organic/inorganic matter into the annulus, which resulted in a failure of the well casing.  Read more here.

             As of December 13, 2023, Equitrans has not completed the cleanup of groundwater contaminated when the company was trying to plug the well venting the natural gas.  Read more here.

             Failure To Provide DEP Inspectors Access

On September 6, 2023, DEP issued notices of violation 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” related to the Rager Mountain Natural Gas Storage Facility.   Read more here.

DEP said, “On December 7th, 2022 the Department ("DEP") requested Equitrans provide 10 sets of keys or a list of alphanumeric gate codes for Water Quality Specialists and Oil and Gas Inspectors.”  [Read more here]

“As of today’s date [September 6, 2023], Equitrans has not provided DEP the requested keys or alphanumeric codes to allow DEP inspectors free and unrestricted entry or access.”

Criminal Charges In 2023

             On November 1, 2023, Attorney General Michelle Henry announced criminal charges against Equitrans, L.P. regarding the energy company’s failure to fix a natural gas leak that caused a house explosion in Greene County in 2018.  Read more here.

Three occupants of the home, a couple and their four-year-old son, sustained severe burns after the house at 161 Bowser Road exploded and caught fire on October 31, 2018.

An investigation by the Office of Attorney General revealed that a conventional storage well near the White family home was deteriorating and leaking gas for years, resulting in methane contamination of the home’s water supply.

The 51st Statewide Investigating Grand Jury recommended charges under Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law regarding failures to properly maintain a storage well, and for not conducting an investigation after the explosion.  Read more here.

Gamble Hayden Gas Storage Area Leaking Well

DEP issued a notice of violation to Equitrans Midstream on May 23, 2022 for natural gas leaking from a conventional gas well servicing the Gamble Hayden Gas Storage Area in Forward Township, Allegheny County.

On September 12, 2023, Equitrans began plugging the well.  Read more here.

Mountain Valley Pipeline

Equitrans Midstream is the primary company involved in the construction and operation of the controversial Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia.

(Map: Post-Gazette.)

Related Articles - Equitrans:

-- Attorney General Henry Announces Criminal Charges Against Equitrans For 2018 Natural Gas Explosion That Destroyed Home In Greene County  [PaEN]

-- Equitrans Determined Leak Of Over 1.1 Billion Cubic Feet Of Natural Gas From Cambria County Storage Facility Was Caused By Corrosion In Conventional Gas Well Casing  [PaEN]

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

-- DEP Reviewing Equitrans Act 2 Soil Cleanup Report On Rager Mountain Gas Storage Area Conventional Well That Failed Venting 1.1 Billion Cubic Feet Of Natural Gas In Cambria County  [PaEN]

PA Weekly Oil & Gas Industry Public Notice Dashboards:

-- PA Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Jan. 20 to 26 - 15 More Abandoned Conventional Wells; Plugging Abandoned Shale Gas Wells; Revolution Pipeline Land Slip; Brief Compressor Fire; Crypto Mining?  What's That Pink Stuff?  [PaEN]

-- 5 Months Later, Roulette Oil & Gas Still Has Not Resolved Violations For Abandoning A Shale Gas Well Without Plugging It In Potter County  [PaEN]

-- XTO Energy Begins Plugging First Of 4 Abandoned Shale Gas Wells At Butler County Well Pad [PaEN]

-- 66 Months Later, DEP Worked With Conventional Well Owner, But Multiple Spills At A Well  Site Have Still Not Been Cleaned Up; No Protections In Place For Operators Or Taxpayers  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - January 27  [PaEN]

-- DEP Posted 84 Pages Of Permit-Related Notices In January 27 PA Bulletin  [PaEN] 

2023 Oil & Gas Compliance Reports:

-- DEP Issued At Least 512 Violations To 95 Conventional Oil & Gas Operators For Abandoning Wells Without Plugging Them In 2023; 10 Shale Gas Operators Were Issued NOVs For Abandoning Wells  [PaEN]

-- DEP Issues Record 6,860 Notices Of Violation To Conventional Oil & Gas Operators In 2023-- Nearly 52% More Than In 2021; ‘Culture Of Non-Compliance’ Continues  [PaEN]

-- 2023 Shale Gas Operator Compliance Report: 1,310 Violations; Explosions; Pad Fire, Evacuation; Uncontrolled Gas Venting; Frack-Outs; Polluting Water Supply; Spills; Pipeline Crashing Thru A Home; More  [PaEN]

-- PA Environment Digest: Articles On Oil & Gas Facility Impacts

Related Articles This Week:

-- Protect PT: Commonwealth Court Vacates Penneco Oil & Gas Wastewater Injection Well Permit, Remanding It To Plum Boro For Additional Fact Finding In Allegheny County  [PaEN]

-- What’s That Pink Stuff Spilled At Apex Energy Shale Gas Well Pad In Salem Twp., Westmoreland County?  [PaEN]

[Posted: January 31, 2024]  PA Environment Digest

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