Preserving Air Quality
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 to 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 that allows for task tracking, report generation and emissions calculations for compliance with state and federal requirements.
Smart Design Reduces Emissions
Although compliance is the fundamental goal and outcome of our air program, we also voluntarily implement proactive measures to reduce air emissions from the start of our site and facility design.
Monitoring and Maintenance
Beyond our management system, our lease operators conduct onsite monitoring 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, Safety and Regulatory (EHSR) representative, and action is taken when necessary.
In addition to monitoring, regular maintenance can reduce emissions events. We initiate and manage our maintenance activities through an enterprise-wide software application called the Enterprise Asset Maintenance program. This program allows for the centralized management of equipment and asset data and offers a standardized work order system for operational and maintenance activities. This calibration across our operating areas enables increased visibility and accountability for maintenance activities and provides data that can be used for trend analysis.
Chesapeake analyzes maintenance data to identify preventative improvements to our sites. For example, we found that over time gasket failures can cause leaks due to the cracking and warping of the standard gasket material. In response, Chesapeake formed an interdisciplinary team to research and test gasket materials in our operations. This group recommended the most appropriate gasket material to reduce future leaks and equipment failure. Based on these findings, we created and distributed a best management practice bulletin to inform our Operations, Engineering and Supply Chain teams on the benefits of installing the recommended gasket material.
Innovative Transportation Solutions
For both safety and environmental reasons, we utilize pipelines for oil, natural gas and water transportation when possible. If pipelines are not available or feasible for business reasons, we have developed other innovative solutions to limit truck traffic and reduce transportation emissions.
For example, 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.
Another example of our commitment to reducing transportation emissions is our use of 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.
While it is our intention to capitalize on all of our produced natural gas, flaring — the practice of safely combusting natural gas ― can be necessary in some instances due to operational or economic limitations. Chesapeake works to reduce the need to flare by adopting solutions to keep natural gas in the production stream.
When we do flare, employee safety and environmental stewardship are paramount. Chesapeake’s flares and combustors are controlled by a burner management system, a best practice in the industry. A burner management system offers:
- Automated and simplified startup, operation and shutdown of burners
- Monitoring of flare and combustor operations from a central location
- Confidence that the flares or combustors are operating effectively
- An emergency shut-down function if the system detects a problem with the flare
Leak Detection and Repair
Chesapeake utilizes two primary methods — infrared cameras and regular onsite inspections — to monitor for leaks at our well sites. Forward-looking infrared (FLIR) cameras help our teams to detect methane leaks and direct specific maintenance activities. The infrared camera allows field technicians to visualize leaks that may not be detected by unaided senses, as well as help pinpoint the source of the leak.
Our FLIR inspectors are certified, having completed the Optical Gas Imaging Certification Training through the Infrared Training Center. Also, many have lease operator experience or suitable training, giving them both the knowledge and authority to repair certain leaks immediately.
Chesapeake complies with state and federal leak detection and repair (LDAR) regulations, conducting leak detection surveys at the prescribed frequency. This commitment includes inspecting sites within 60 days of a new well producing to confirm equipment is operating properly.
The importance of targeted leak detection has led Chesapeake to voluntarily survey a number of our sites, going beyond regulatory requirements. All sites are considered for surveying, and we utilize a risk-based approach to determine which sites should be voluntarily inspected at prescribed times. Of the sites we surveyed in 2017, more than 60% were inspected voluntarily.
In addition to FLIR cameras, our lease operators perform audio, visual and olfactory (AVO) observations as part of their routine onsite activities, often on a daily basis. Standardized site inspections, including AVO observations, are detailed in lease operator guidebooks available for each operating area. Also, field environmental staff present on AVO leak detection at least annually during safety meetings.
Chesapeake team members continue to evaluate new technologies that could improve detection capabilities, including testing monitoring equipment currently in market development.
We also work with government agencies and local and national industry peer groups to advance leak detection processes and knowledge. This includes sharing and learning from our peers. In 2017, we joined The Environmental Partnership, a coalition of U.S. natural gas and oil companies working together to improve the industry’s environmental performance through knowledge sharing and collaboration. The partnership’s first initiative focuses on further reducing emissions, including methane.
Operating on low-emission (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 have a number of alternative fuel source capabilities and in 2017, we powered nearly 30% of Chesapeake-operated rigs with diesel-alternative fuels.