Water Protection

The protection of water sources is important to Range. In the Marcellus Shale Play, Range surveys water sources such as springs, wells and ponds within a 3,000 foot radius from its proposed locations. This includes water intake reservoirs within a 1,000 foot radius and notifies the surface owner of those water supplies. Those within a 2,500 foot radius are subject to water testing prior to activity conducted by an approved, third-party company and copies are sent to the owners, state regulatory agencies and is kept on file at Range.

Pennsylvania, where the majority of Range’s shale development takes place, is one of only two states in the nation without private water well construction standards or regulations. Because of this, our third-party water tests often serve as an important public health function for neighboring residents who may be unaware of constituents in their wells before our operations begin. The tests set a baseline of naturally occurring gases and other constituents that may be present before drilling. The results are shared with the landowner. In other parts of the country, like Oklahoma, Range’s work typically takes place further away from population centers. Those states also have private drinking water well standards and regulations, which has resulted in less confusion about water quality with residents. 

As a matter of best practice and in the pursuit of furthering the available data on the topic, Range assesses groundwater quality after completing certain operations.  These situations may include, but are not limited to:

  1. A request by surface owners, regulatory agencies, or other engaged stakeholders.
  2. In fulfillment of the contractual terms of a lease agreement. 

Based on the existing body of research and years of operational experience, Range has determined that it is unnecessary to systematically perform such analysis for each operation, rather it takes a balanced, science-based approach to ensure engagement with its stakeholders and to assure regulatory compliance. 

Range’s policy is to immediately evaluate and respond to any concerns or complaints regarding landowner or water purveyor water supplies.  Upon receiving a complaint, Range notifies and works with state regulatory agencies according to applicable regulations and retains an independent, state-certified laboratory to conduct testing of the water supply in question.  Range also retains an outside environmental engineering consultant to fully investigate the root cause of any such concerns.  Additionally, if needed, Range provides replacement water supplies during the testing and investigation.

In the Marcellus Shale Play, Range identifies and evaluates active, inactive, orphaned, abandoned, and P&A wells’ surface and bottom-hole locations within 1000’ of proposed new well locations with respect to the top-hole location and along the entire lateral length of the well bore. This is achieved by using a combination of regulatory agency data, Range’s own extensive database, landowner questionnaires, and physical field surveys. Once any such wells are located and evaluated, Range develops and implements a well monitoring plan for those identified wells.  Additionally subsurface geology is assessed within the same area of review by using historical data, data from previously drilled wells, and seismic survey data; the results of this assessment are used to identify faults and mitigate any risks associated with those faults. Although it is not possible for fracturing fluids to communicate with the surface through a fault or fracture during well completions; for both safety and efficiency purposes Range relies on scientific analysis prior to and during active operations to closely monitor and prevent/mitigate communication between active wells and related potential subsurface issues, however rare those instances may be.

The risk of communication with abandoned wells is something Range investigates prior to any well being drilled. This was the focus of a 2016 Area of Review regulation promulgated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. This regulation requires unconventional well operators to investigate available data sources and identify any wells (active, inactive, orphan, abandoned, or plugged and abandoned) within 1,000 feet laterally of the vertical and horizontal sections of the planned wellbore in advance of drilling. To date, there have been several thousand Marcellus and Upper Devonian wells drilled in Pennsylvania with no known reported induced seismic events associated with completion of those wells.

Within the Marcellus Shale Play, after drilling is completed, and before hydraulic fracturing begins, Range performs the following measures to evaluate well bore integrity:

  • The wellbore is pressure tested to make sure that no fluid can escape through the protective casing and cement system;
  • A pressure relief system is installed on the surface equipment, which is tested and monitored throughout fracking operations;
  • In the rare event that abnormal pressures are encountered, the pressure relief valve enables the pressure to be dissipated on the surface;
  • Cement bond logs are run, as warranted, to provide further confidence in the strength and integrity of the cement casing strings;

Range engineers the casing and cement in its wells to meet or exceed the numerous regulations that protect groundwater. In addition to water testing and enhanced well designs, Range conducts ongoing monitoring, during and after drilling, to ensure the integrity of its producing wells. Range applies rigorous engineering and operational standards throughout the life cycle of a well. 

The PA DEP has published a Recommended Basic Oil and Gas Pre-Drill Parameters list, and Range has worked closely with the Marcellus Shale Coalition to develop a formalized Pre-Drill Water Supply Survey Recommended Practice and Parameter List which we utilize for pre-drill and water complaint testing on our Marcellus Shale well sites.

Once wells are placed into production we perform regularly scheduled inspections, quarterly mechanical integrity assessment inspections, semi-annual well head FLIR inspections, and periodic ultrasonic testing of surface equipment.

Of all of our Marcellus and Northern Louisiana wells, none of our wells have experienced well integrity failures resulting in liquid releases to the environment. 

Typical Marcellus Shale Casing Design 
  Well Casing   WellAndCasing

For more information see:
Hydraulic Fracturing Fact Sheet
Video: Shale Development