One company commits to a cleaner oil and gas waste management system

NRDC is very concerned about the management of toxic waste generated by oil and gas exploration and production. In September, we petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to issue new rules for managing this waste, because the old rules are out of date, having been issued in 1988. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, a lot has happened in the last twenty years: we know a lot more about the toxicity of oil and gas waste; some of it is dumped right in the backyards of families, where children used to play.

NRDC has repeatedly made the case that industry can manage its waste more safely, and these safer practices often result in significant cost savings to the industry. One of them is called "pitless drilling." Pitless systems, also known as closed-loop systems, mean the waste is stored in tanks instead of open-air pits. These systems mean less waste because they maximize the ability to reuse and recycle water and drilling fluids.

Today I read that Chief Oil & Gas has announced that it will use only closed loop systems for all of its natural gas wells. On its website, Chief reports that it is operating in the Marcellus Shale region (multiple states), the Barnett Shale area in Texas, and Utah. The Marcellus and the Barnett operations are producing natural gas, so we expect that is where the pitless systems will be used. The Utah resources appear to be oil, but we hope that Chief will use pitless drilling there, also, and become a model for other oil and gas producers.

This is a good move by Chief, for environmental as well as economic reasons. Chief also states on its website that it is voluntarily disclosing the hydraulic fracturing chemicals used in its wells. A look at the website finds that it is disclosing chemicals listed on its Material Data Safety Sheets (MSDS), but since we know that MSDS don't always include all chemicals, it is unclear whether Chief is disclosing all chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process. If not, we hope it will do so.