Range Resources – Appalachia, LLC pioneered large scale water recycling for shale gas development in Pennsylvania in 2009. Pennsylvania now leads the nation in shale water recycling and reuse. Over the years several iterations of technologies and best practices have been developed and employed as part of the Company’s water management plan, including the use of impoundments specifically engineered to manage water.
Range discovered elevated levels of chlorides, or salt, at some older facilities in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Further investigations found elevated chlorides in some groundwater monitoring systems at the impoundments and in the soil beneath some impoundment liner systems, due to damage to the liner and some minor surface spills. Both Range’s and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) monitoring and testing have reconfirmed that there have been no impacts on drinking water supplies. Again, while there have been no impacts on drinking water supplies, the elevated salts in the monitoring wells at the locations do not present a health or safety risk. Testing has confirmed that no constituents were discovered in the monitoring wells at concentrations exceeding health-based maximum concentration levels, as determined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Pennsylvania has a robust regulatory program and Range accepts the DEP’s actions, which has resulted in a signed Consent Order Agreement and an associated penalty settlement. While the Company is deeply disappointed that these violations occurred, Range is proud to implement newly established best practices and technologies that have been jointly developed with the DEP over the last several months and years. These new practices go above and beyond more comprehensive landfill regulations and newly proposed oil and gas impoundment standards to prevent future issues and continue leading the nation in water recycling.
All new facilities will incorporate best management practices and design standards to include thicker and better engineered liners, newly designed leak detection systems with capabilities to allow for precise and immediate leak detection, a system to allow real-time remote monitoring, leak prevention redundancies including a layer of geosynthetic clay liner that acts as a sealant in the event of a leak, on-site security, continual monitoring by trained experts, and enhanced location siting to alleviate possible traffic issues. The Company will continue to utilize temporary pipelines to transport water that greatly reduce truck traffic, which is an important consideration for the communities in which Range works. The water stored in reuse impoundments is currently a blend of treated or filtered flowback water, drilling and produced water, as well as rain and fresh water.
Part of Range’s plan includes the following: closing five legacy impoundments by the end of the year, with one being closed by April 2015, upgrading two impoundments with these newly established best practices, converting one to a freshwater impoundment, and conducting additional monitoring and testing of water and soil surrounding the locations. Some of these underutilized locations have been out of service for several years and were in the process of being reclaimed.
In addition to implementing these new best practices for impoundments Range is taking additional steps to better manage fresh water withdrawals. This includes reorganizing and refocusing specific employees to provide greater coordination and oversight of water management and regulatory compliance matters to provide more timely coordination with the DEP along with continued development of improvements in this critical area of the Company’s operations. Range is taking these steps after discovering that the Company did not properly administer certain provisions of the Company’s water management plan related to withdrawals along certain waterways. Range has reaffirmed that the withdrawals did not impact any ecosystems since all pass-by flows were protected, but in some instances exceeded permitted daily and instantaneous withdrawals.
Impoundments and effective water management play a critical role in water recycling and reuse and will continue to serve in this important capacity for responsible shale development. Range remains fully committed to being good stewards of the environment and in the communities where the Company works in order to fully maximize the tremendous benefits that responsible shale development can mean for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the nation.