For some well sites our reporting includes a broader assessment. This assessment includes more thorough examination of the site and surroundings and in some cases tests for chlorides.
More thorough examination of the site (including outside of the pad) helps us understand the history of the site and its relationship to water (including distance and slope). The latter is useful for analysis when a SPCC violation is possible.
Certain sites, where warranted, will also have soil (and water when applicable) tested to note the presence of chlorides. Elevated chlorides indicates likely pollution from well activities such as drilling or contamination by brine. We consider chlorides presence as an indicator of possibly more serious pollution.
We originally used a portable GPS for recording locations of important features and/or locations where we take samples. Most smart phones either have a GPS feature or apps are available so the phone can be used as a GPS device.
Chlorides testing is done using Hach Quantab chloride titrator strips. We use the low range (30 mg/l to 600 mg/l) strips. Soil normally has less than 30 mg/l. We're aware of salt scarred sites' soil where no vegetation grows having 250 mg/l chlorides and higher.
Each sample is placed in a numbered container and the GPS location is taken. Positions in relation to the wellhead are recorded (bearing, distance and location). Sketch maps are also made.
Soil samples are brought back home and prepared for testing. In a larger container soil sample is mixed with equal volume of distilled water and let settle for 48 hours. The end of the test strip is positioned in the cleared liquid at the top. Water samples are tested directly, either at the site or at home.
We have three Environmental Assessments completed for 2009. The Environmental Assessment for 47-039-02026 found elevated chloride in the soil at three locations: near the separator (a brine leak), at the location of an earlier brine/condensate leak from the storage tank, and at an exposed workover pit. The Environmental Assessment for 47-079-00731 and 47-079-01492 tracks high-chloride pollution from a closed pit across hundreds of feet until it reaches the Pocatalico River in diluted form. The Environmental Assessment for 47-039-05714 investigates exposed pit waste at a well site drilled several years previously. After chloride tests were used to sample a number of locations, a soil sample was taken from the site for laboratory analysis. The laboratory found elevated levels of arsenic and lead, with the arsenic exceeding state soil to groundwater screening levels almost three times and residential soil 41 times higher. Both lead and arsenic exceed soil screening levels for ecological effects.
At all of these sites, where the chloride level in soil was elevated, we found a large number of animal (mostly deer) tracks. Deer and other animals are attracted to salts and minerals in the soil and where these occur naturally they are called licks. Unfortunately, the high chloride waste at natural gas sites also includes other chemicals which are potentially extremely toxic.
Campbell, Tyler A., et al. 2004. "Unusual white-tailed deer movements to a gas well in the central Appalachians." Wildlife Society Bulletin 32(3), pages 983-986.
Otton, James K. and Zielinski, Robert A. 2000. Simple techniques for assessing impacts of oil and gas operations on Federal Lands: a field evaluation at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Scott County, Tennessee (online edition). Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Open-File Report 00-499.
Gas Well Site Visits
Gas Well Study is the examination of natural gas wells in West Virginia.
Underground Injection Control Class 2 Wells
These wells are used either for the disposal of oil and gas liquid waste or for the enhanced recovery of oil or natural gas.
Gas Well Study Site Visits
Annual reports, environmental assessments, and individual well information.
Select videos from the Gas Well Study YouTube channel.
What Happened at Fernow
An investigation into what caused the vegetation death in the land application area after landspraying hydraulic fracture flowback waste.
The Spill at Buckeye Creek
An investigation into a spill from a Marcellus well site into Buckeye Creek in Doddridge county.