From South Texas to Pennsylvania, we have field offices in top U.S. oil and natural gas plays.
Minimizing spills is one of our key performance objectives — a goal that drives accountability across all employee levels. Using spill causal analysis, facility design and operational improvements, we have significantly decreased the number of spills reportable to regulatory agencies since 2013.
In 2019, we handled more than 175 million barrels of liquids, including freshwater, produced water and oil, and contained more than 99.9% of these liquids. Although we consider this rate to be successful, our goal is always zero spills.
Spill prevention initiatives have enabled us to make significant environmental performance improvements. Employees from our Engineering, Operations, and Health, Safety, Environment and Regulatory (HSER) teams collect and analyze spill data, identify spill causes and collaborate to implement operational design improvements to prevent spills. Our prevention efforts focus on several primary spill causes including: human error in transfer of liquids; weather; corrosion; pipeline failure; and equipment failure.
One example of a spill prevention initiative is our integrity management efforts, using technology and innovation to proactively identify and mitigate corrosion of the equipment holding our produced water.
Chesapeake stores produced water in API-certified tanks — a design standard required by the company across its plays. These tanks are made of either steel or fiberglass, a decision made by local operations teams taking into account water composition and local weather patterns.
Over time, environmental conditions and produced water can corrode steel equipment, particularly tanks, valves, pipes and gathering lines, leading to the potential of a leak or malfunction. Our company design standard requires new steel storage tanks to be internally coated to resist corrosion.
To further safeguard our tanks and heater treaters, we encourage the use of anodes, pieces of sacrificial metal that corrode first and protect the integrity of our equipment. Sacrificial anodes are monitored and replaced periodically as part of our prevention initiatives. Chesapeake also utilizes cathodic protection, which operates similarly to sacrificial anodes, to protect buried equipment including flow lines and pipelines. Several operating areas use ultrasonic testing to measure wall loss on equipment so that it can be repaired or retire prior to failure.
In addition to this internal protection, steel tanks are externally coated with a protective primer and paint layer and placed on gravel rings or other elevated bases to limit corrosion from standing rain or surface water.
Secondary containment for storage tanks is also a key element of our facility design and spill prevention efforts. Chesapeake's corporate standard requires impervious containment to be installed around our tanks to capture any fluid that may escape primary containment. Secondary containment consists of steel walls layered with a polyurea coating or other acceptable impervious materials (plastic, cement or geosynthetic clay or compacted soils) which are designed to last the lifetime of the facility.
Early detection of corrosion is key to mitigating risk, and operational staff receive training on how to identify corrosion as part of their routine field equipment inspections. The majority of our producing wells are treated with a liquid corrosion inhibitor. Production lines, vessels and tanks are regularly monitored through a corrosion chemical management program including corrosion coupons, chemical residuals, and water and bacteria analyses. These inspections help to determine whether corrosion has been mitigation and if further treatment or remedial action may be required.
In addition to these inspections, our tank fluid-level sensors alert operational staff if tank levels change unexpectedly, indicating the potential for a leak. Should a problem be identified, we either repair the corroded area or replace the equipment of concern. As an additional precaution, our Asset Integrity team conducts operational reviews to confirm the correct implementation of company design standards.
In addition to evaluating spill data, it is important to analyze "near misses" to help inform future actions and continuously improve our performance. Within our incident management database, we record situations in which incidents could have occurred, as well as the corrective actions taken. We also document "good catches," which help to identify and remedy potential hazards.
Chesapeake is prepared to respond to spill incidents through the assemblage of a comprehensive, cross-functional team. This team evaluates SPCC, Emergency Response, Environmental and Drilling Plans and utilizes elements of each to train and prepare for future events. When activated, this team focuses first on safety, then on environmental protection and regulatory compliance. At any time, this team and its resources are ready and available to respond. Each week Senior Operational and HSER leaders review company incidents, including safety-related incidents and environmental spills.