|Extracting natural gas is a controversial process. However, even conservation groups have stated that with the proper technology, government regulations, and care, drilling for natural gas can be a safe, harmless act. Unfortunately, as one company and community just found out, mistakes do happen: Vantage Energy Appalachia LLC has been ordered to pay a $999,900 penalty after their operations caused a landslide that covered and diverted two small streams in Greene County, Pennsylvania.On January 16, 2014, a landslide occurred as a result of local drilling, which covered two streams near the Porter Street well pad in Franklin Township. In July, a Vantage subcontractor, Elite Well Services, then dumped two truckloads of drilling wastewater into the landslide area, where remediation work was underway. The company was cited for constructing an access road along the streams without the necessary permit, further disturbing the streams, which are tributaries of the nearby Grimes River.
As a result of these violations, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection ruled that the Englewood, Colorado-based gas drilling company will pay a penalty to fully restore the impacted area, including remediation of the surface and groundwater. All remediation work must be completed by the end of 2015.
Pennsylvania is one of the most prized areas for shale drilling in the northeastern United States. As a result, the accident is being used by numerous industry members as a reminder to procure the proper paperwork, invest in the proper equipment and vendors, and consider the impact their work will have on the area.
“Using sever-duty engineered drilling equipment to exacting standards is a critical part of any shale drilling project,” shares Mandy Raps, Marketing Lead with Dragon Products, a 50+ year-old U.S based oilfield equipment manufacturer. “With the recent boom in the oilfield, there are more players in the market. Only a few, however, have the expertise, experience, and service after the sale that is necessary to help insure that the appropriate equipment is being utilized . The bottom-line is be thorough, ask the right questions of vendors, and do your homework researching the track record of manufacturers and partners.”
Vantage has two shale gas wells drilled and producing on the area’s well pad, but seven additional wells previously planned will now not be drilled until the remediation and restoration work is completed. In a statement issued after the penalty was decided, the company reported that it regrets the incident and is taking proactive steps to demonstrate their commitment to operational excellence, transparency and environmental compliance. A representative from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has commented that these steps will include hiring an independent consultant to conduct an environmental audit of its drilling sites, as well as other steps to better manage its operations in the area.