Drilling, Production and Environmental Protection

During the drilling phase, multiple layers of protective steel casing, surrounded by cement, are installed to protect freshwater aquifers and other natural resources. Although the distance between freshwater aquifers and natural gas and oil formations averages more than 7,700 feet — nearly 1.5 miles — we practice an abundance of caution to prevent the migration of produced fluids and hydrocarbons. We also work with state and federal regulatory agencies to ensure we meet or exceed guidelines for well site construction. Due to each state’s unique geology, often these guidelines are dictated predominantly by the state regulatory agencies.


After preparing the well during the drilling stage, we utilize the process of hydraulic fracturing to stimulate and recover natural gas and oil resources. We employ the use of hydraulic fracturing technology in all of our wells and are committed to industry best practices in well integrity and chemical use. 

The Process

After drilling is complete, a mixture consisting principally of water, sand and a small percentage of additives is pumped at a high pressure to create small fissures, or fractures, within the rock. These newly created fractures are held open by proppants (most commonly sand), which allows the trapped natural gas and oil to flow through the well and up to the surface.


In an effort to improve transparency concerning our use of additives during the hydraulic fracturing process, we disclose the chemical ingredients contained in hydraulic fracturing fluids to state agencies and to the public on fracfocus.org. FracFocus, a web-based registry with support from the U.S. Department of Energy, provides detail on the process’ additives, chemicals and the amount of water used, as reported by oil and gas operators. 

Since February 2011 we have reported on 100% of our well completions, a total of more than 6,000 disclosures. Along with being an early supporter and one of the largest contributors to FracFocus, Chesapeake also encourages its additive suppliers to be as transparent as possible regarding the composition of their compounds. Certain U.S. and state trade laws protect proprietary business information for chemical manufacturers, including those that produce hydraulic fracturing fluids. In these instances, companies may choose to not disclose certain chemicals on FracFocus to protect their product development investments.


We take a proactive approach to reducing or replacing the chemicals used in our hydraulic fracturing process through our GreenFrac® initiative. GreenFrac challenges Chesapeake engineers to evaluate the necessity of each chemical additive and determine if a more environmentally friendly option could be used. 

We use a scorecard system to evaluate a compound’s potential hazards based on information provided by regulatory bodies and the international standard for safety data sheets. As part of the program, Chesapeake vendors are required to evaluate each of their completion chemicals against the GreenFrac scorecard criteria. Those chemicals that are more environmentally friendly yield a better score and are further evaluated as compared to potential replacements for additives that do not score as well. As examples, GreenFrac encourages the use of dry additives or extremely low aromatic solvents in place of liquid chemicals to reduce risk. The program also incentivizes the use of non-BTEX fracturing formulas. 

Since 2008, we have eliminated nearly 20% of the chemical additives, including diesel, used in our hydraulic fracturing fluids. We are also committed to reducing costs of those additives that meet our GreenFrac criteria, enabling more comprehensive adoption across our operations. 


Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) is common in soil, water, food and air. During production, underground NORM, which is primarily associated with produced water, can be brought to the surface where it may accumulate in surface equipment over time. 

Although NORM is not regulated in every state, Chesapeake is committed to a higher standard of safety and environmental protection. We have a companywide NORM program that incorporates both applicable state and federal regulations, as well as industry best practices. Through this program, Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) and Operations teams partner to measure the level of NORM on our locations using specialized radiation survey equipment, and use that data to implement appropriate safe work practices and manage associated waste. This approach includes five regular procedures for the safe handling and disposal of this material, as well as a more extensive training program for field employees. 

More than 400 employees are currently trained to be able to survey for NORM and all Chesapeake sites that process produced water are required to be surveyed.