Oil and natural gas are significant to the world’s energy mix, supporting economic growth and providing improved quality of life to people around the world. We believe it is critical to maintain an affordable energy supply and have clean air, and we share in the concern that air emissions can affect air quality. For this reason, we focus our efforts on reducing well lifecycle emissions.
Chesapeake's robust air program has regulatory compliance at its foundation ― a minimum standard for our operations. We utilize a compliance management system (CMS) that alerts employees when modifications or changes in operating parameters cause emissions to approach a limit. Should an alert be triggered, equipment updates or modifications may be necessary to prevent an emissions event. The CMS also allows for task tracking, report generation and emissions calculations for compliance with state and federal requirements.
Beyond our management system, our lease operators conduct onsite evaluations for air emissions. Using an application on their smartphones, they perform air quality observation reviews and file real-time reports which are routed to a supervisor and an Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) representative, and action is taken when necessary.
Monitoring and maintenance are key components of our air program, but we also voluntarily implement proactive measures to reduce air emissions.
It is our intention to capitalize on our produced natural gas; however, when gathering or distribution infrastructure are unavailable, the natural gas is safely flared or combusted. Flaring is the practice of safely combusting natural gas that is not sold due to operational or economic limitations. In addition, flaring reduces our greenhouse gas and criteria pollutant emissions and protects our employees.
Chesapeake’s flares and combustors are controlled by a burner management system (BMS), a best practice in the industry. A BMS increases employee safety and offers environmental benefits by:
- Automating and simplifying the startup, normal operation and shutdown of a burner
- Providing confidence that the flare or combustor is operating effectively
- Enabling the monitoring of flare and combustor operations from a central location
- Activating an emergency shut-down function if the system detects a problem with the flare
Reducing Emissions with Innovative Solutions
For both safety and environmental reasons, we utilize pipelines for oil, gas and water transportation when feasible. In our Mississippi Lime operating area, we were instrumental in creating dedicated water pipelines to transport produced water from nearly all of our well sites to disposal wells.
If pipelines are not available or feasible for business reasons, we have developed other innovative solutions to limit truck traffic and reduce transportation emissions.
In the Eagle Ford, Chesapeake designed and implemented central production facilities, or CPFs, which use a pipeline gathering system to bring the production of multiple pads into a single facility. Not only do CPFs reduce surface and air impact, but they increase equipment reliability and product stream volumes enabling additional natural gas to be captured and sold.
Chesapeake also voluntarily utilizes trucks that have been tested for tank tightness, a process that includes performing vacuum and pressure testing of truck tank vessels to reduce leakage. The use of these tested truck tanks helps to capture more than 98% of the vapors that escape when loading product for distribution. These captured vapors are routed to a combustor or flare for destruction.
Leak Detection and Repair
Chesapeake utilizes two primary methods to monitor for leaks at our well sites. Most frequently, our lease operators perform audible, visual and olfactory (AVO) observations as part of their routine onsite activities, often on a daily basis.
We also use forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras to detect methane leaks and to direct specific maintenance activities. The infrared camera allows field technicians to visualize leaks that may not be detected by the ear, naked eye or nose, as well as help pinpoint the leak source itself.
Chesapeake complies with federal and state leak detection and repair (LDAR) regulations, conducting leak detection surveys at the prescribed frequency. Although there may be diminishing returns with repeated inspections, the importance of targeted leak detection in areas without regulatory requirements has led Chesapeake to voluntarily survey a number of our sites. Of the sites we surveyed in 2016, 65% were inspected voluntarily.
Operating on diesel-alternative fuels can reduce both emissions and waste, and provide cost savings for the company depending on the availability of fuel sources. Across Chesapeake-operated areas, we utilize at least one alternative fuel source during one or more of our operational activities. For example, in 2016 nearly 25% of Chesapeake-operated rigs were powered by alternative fuels.
Specific to our vehicle fleet, nearly 50% of Chesapeake’s vehicles are compressed natural gas (CNG) or bi-fuel (able to use both CNG and gasoline or diesel). Compressed natural gas produces far less emissions than gasoline and diesel including 20 to 30% less CO2. In addition to environmental benefits, CNG offers Chesapeake fuel cost savings — more than $750,000 in 2015 and 2016.