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 in our plays averages more than 7,700 feet — nearly 1.5 miles — we engineer our wellbore design out of an abundance of caution to prevent the migration of produced fluids and hydrocarbons. We also work with regulatory agencies to ensure we meet or exceed guidelines for well bore construction. These guidelines often vary by jurisdiction as a result of each state’s unique geology.


After preparing the well during the drilling stage, we utilize the completion 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 Hydraulic Fracturing Process

Once drilling is complete, a mixture most commonly consisting 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 (typically sand), which allows the trapped natural gas and oil to flow through the well and up to the surface.

When producing an oil well, a larger proppant is required as is a more viscous (thick) fluid for transport. To increase the viscosity of the fluid, additives such as guar gum are included in the water mixture. This difference in viscosity needs, as well as the intended production and targeted formation, leads to variance in the makeup of hydraulic fracturing fluids.


In an effort to improve transparency around the use of chemicals in the hydraulic fracturing process, we disclose the additives contained within hydraulic fracturing fluids to state regulatory 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 completion process’ additives, chemicals and the amount of water used, as reported by oil and gas operators. Chesapeake was an early supporter of FracFocus, championing the site and contributing to its development. 

Since February 2011 we have reported on 100% of our well completions, a total of more than 6,000 disclosures. When reporting to FracFocus, Chesapeake utilizes information supplied to us by our vendors in the form of Safety Data Sheets (SDS). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) governs the information that is supplied on the SDS and, in certain situations, allows a manufacturer or vendor to withhold certain information about a chemical or substance in order to protect what the manufacture believes to confidential business information (CBI) or proprietary trade secret information. We encourage our additive suppliers to be as transparent as reasonably possible regarding the composition of their compounds.


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 each compound based on information provided by regulatory bodies and U.S. and international health and hazard information. 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 containing hydraulic 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. 

Waste Management

The tracking and accounting of our waste is an area of continuous improvement for the company. Beginning with a pilot program in 2013, we initiated a formal system of tracking hauled waste by creating Point to Point, a custom web application. Since that time, we have incorporated nearly all of our business units into the system. The company is currently working to include the remaining business units into the system by the end of 2017. 

Point to Point tracks hauled water and waste streams used throughout a well’s lifecycle. Through this application’s database, a weekly report is prepared and distributed to each business unit noting the volume and cost of the waste generated that week. By building awareness, we challenge each business unit to reduce its waste production and the costs associated.

Certain waste disposal is highly specialized. This includes the disposal of naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM). During production, 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 high 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.

More than 450 employees are currently trained to be able to survey for NORM and all Chesapeake locations that generate, process or dispose of produced water are surveyed regularly in order to properly manage accumulations of NORM.