Landowners face a variety of issues related to future land-use in regards to the sitings of industry infrastructure. Penn State Cooperative Extension offers a variety of information. If you do not find what you are seeking, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org. chances are we may be able to provide other resources.
Some important issues related to land use is well pad spacing. The more wells the operators may drill from one specific well pad location, the less related ground disturbance is necessary for access roads and gathering lines. Industry began with one, two wells per small pad location. Then the more experienced operators began proposing six wells per pad. Many operators began moving towards more wells per pad and now that number is growing to eight wells and more. The more wells on a pad the better for the community.
Impoundments sited on one’s property, are an infrastructure in which landowners may be approached by a land man. A landowner will negotiate an agreement for five, ten, possibly fifteen years or more. An impoundment is not a pond, but rather, it is an industrial water containment facility. It will have a liner, lighting, intake/outtake area and industrial fencing. Impoundments may hold waters from approved SRBC withdrawal locations or they may contain partially treated flowback water or flowback water.
DEP has two standards, one for freshwater and one for wastewater. Waters obtained from approved SRBC withdrawal locations along with treated water meeting DEP criterion, are permitted to be contained in a freshwater impoundment. Wastewater impoundments are permitted to contain flowback waters. The purpose of the impoundment can never change. There are specific construction standards that are specific to each.
However, a permitted waste water impoundment may occasionally contain freshwater. Landowners need to be aware that a waste water impoundment is essentially a landfill. It is monitored as such. Presently, a waste water impoundment is required to have a thicker liner, water well monitoring on the premises and leak detection technology.
While these standards are now in place, many impoundments lacking these construction standards were built previously. Some impoundments have created negative environmental impacts, one primary reason there are now these established standards.
The benefit touted by the industry for impoundments is the lessening of truck traffic. This may only prove accurate when an elaborate piping system transports the water to the impoundments and then to the well pads, and in some cases, back to the impoundments. Many impoundments have the water trucked in. And, at times, that impoundment water is trucked out, so the lessening of traffic may not hold true every case, every time. One major advantage of impoundments is the advantage of storing water for use during the drier summer season and periods of drought. Impoundments, to an extent allow the industry to continue with their activities that require water such as drilling and fracing. Some operators use elaborate impoundment facilities to operate their recycling/reuse efforts.
These standards may be revised further as DEP moves forward with the Chapter 78 revisions to the PA Code relative to Oil and Gas Regulations. Also, the Center for Sustainable Shale Development’s Performance Standard #4 addresses impoundments.
Performance Standard No. 4:
1. When utilizing centralized impoundments for the storage of flowback and/or produced waters, Operators shall ensure that free hydrocarbons are removed from the water prior to storage and that new impoundments are double-lined with an impermeable material, equipped with leak detection and take measures to reasonably prevent hazards to wildlife. Total hydrocarbons should be substantially removed.
2. Additionally, CSSD will facilitate research designed to determine the extent of hydrocarbon emissions from these waters so that by September 1, 2014, a decision can be made as to whether, and to what extent, this standard should be amended.
Landowners need to be aware of the current regulations regarding future disuse of the impoundment and remediation. Where the regulations fall short in these issues, the landowner may desire to include in their agreement the manner in which the impoundment ‘hole’ is restored to its previous natural condition.
Here Are Some Helpful Links:
– Pennsylvania’s Dam Safety Program
– Dam Permits in Pennsylvania
– Design, Construction and Maintenance Standards for Damembankments Associated with Impoundments for Oil and Gas Wells
– Design and Construction Standards for Centralized Impoundments