Why Managing It Matters
Today’s sophisticated natural gas production process relies on water for its innovative procedures. EQT must meet stringent regulatory safeguards to protect water resources in the communities where we operate and ensure that production activities have no lasting negative effects. EQT understands and appreciates the importance of maintaining water quality and quantity standards in maintaining human and ecological health, and we utilize best management practices to adhere to strict environmental standards. We have a vested interest in our communities, as the majority of our employees and contractors live and work in our operating areas.
EQT recognizes that natural gas development activities are water intensive, and we are dedicated to protecting fresh water by operating responsibly. In our operations, we strive to minimize the quantity of fresh water used and mindfully select and carefully manage the quality of water sources. EQT’s developed practices for effective water management include identifying and evaluating water sources, permitting locations and operating withdrawal sites. We identify potential risks in each relevant category as well as appropriate mitigation, should the need arise.
EQT only operates within the Appalachian Basin1, which has a richer water supply than other basins where water is scarcer. That said, EQT takes our conservation responsibility seriously and cooperates with state agencies to permit each water withdrawal site, which includes a full evaluation of watersheds and a recommended maximum flow rate. We adhere to agency recommendations on flow rates and do not exceed the maximum daily allowance to protect the quality and quantity of each source. Surface water withdrawals are taken in accordance with a state-approved water management plan ensuring that we will not withdraw water from a stream during low flow conditions and that adequate water remains in the water body for aquatic species and downstream users. In addition to surface water withdrawal, we obtain water from municipalities in accordance with a contract from local or regional municipal water suppliers.
EQT’s Environmental Department, led by our Corporate Director, Environmental Affairs, is responsible for the oversight and management of all aspects of our environmental footprint. This department reports to the Vice President of Environment, Health and Safety. Each quarter, we share environmental progress, including violations, with the Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility Committee of our board of directors. Additionally, regulatory agencies in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio receive reports pursuant to water withdrawal permits regarding EQT’s water usage.
To increase the productivity of shale formations, natural gas extraction relies on the process of hydraulic fracturing — the use of fluid to create pressure to crack shale formations underground that release the natural gas. This fracturing fluid is composed of water mixed with sand and a small percentage of chemical additives. To reduce the likelihood of groundwater or aquifer contamination, our wells have multiple layers of steel and cement — a process known as triple casing.
Further demonstrating our commitment to protecting water resources, EQT is proud to be a charter participant of FracFocus.org, an independent educational website created by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. EQT discloses chemicals used down hole through FracFocus, which uses the systems approach to decouple trade names from individual ingredients on the chemical disclosure form by listing all the ingredients without the specific recipe. To that end, EQT regularly updates our public disclosure of all chemicals added to 100% of our hydraulically fractured wells. Additionally, we continuously explore more environmentally friendly alternatives for our fluids. We do not use diesel additives in our fracturing fluid and have continuously worked to optimize and reduce the amount of other chemicals used. Our fracturing fluids are limited to bactericide, scale inhibitor (with minimum concentrations only when needed) and friction reducer.
In 2018, we determined that none (0%) of our hydraulic fracturing sites deteriorated the surrounding ground or surface water quality compared to baseline testing.
Monitoring Water Impacts
Our primary method to reduce water usage is recycling wastewater generated from drilling, completions and well operations. This approach minimizes fresh water withdrawals, primarily through the recycling of water produced in our hydraulic fracturing process and from our production process. EQT recycles more than 90% of the wastewater (flowback and produced water) that we generate. We also have evaluated other water sources, including coal mine wastewater, but the water chemistry characteristics of the coal mine water sources available in our operating areas have not been suitable for hydraulic fracturing operations.
Further, we strive to protect the fresh water in our communities by investing in new technology, leveraging industry best practices, reusing water whenever possible and disclosing the chemical makeup of our fracturing fluids. Well integrity is critical in preventing impacts on water supplies typically found within a few hundred feet of the surface. To protect these shallow aquifers, EQT drills the section of a well that could potentially contain any freshwater using freshwater, soap and air. The drilling is “under-balanced,” which prevents the freshwater, soap and air from flowing into the formation. After drilling the freshwater section of the well, steel pipes — or casings — are cemented in the borehole to protect groundwater and allow production of gas. EQT performs casing pressure tests and runs cement bond logs as required by individual state regulations, and in turn, submits reports on these tests and logs to the applicable state agency when required. EQT has not had a well integrity failure that resulted in an impact to the environment.
Our mature water-well protection program includes conducting both pre- and post-drill sampling at nearby landowners’ private water supplies. We analyze water supplies — including water wells, springs, ponds and streams — for general water quality constituents as well as metals, dissolved gas, petroleum constituents and, if warranted, bacteriological parameters. We conduct pre-drill sampling once for all water sources within 3,000 feet of the well pad and post-drill sampling for sources within 1,500 feet of the well pad at six and twelve months after completing the last gas well on the pad.
We compile and track pre- and post-drill results within the EQT geographic information system (GIS) mapping application and submit records to the property owner as well as the relevant state environmental agency. EQT examines every landowner quality or quantity concern. If there are any perceived issues, EQT immediately conducts a thorough hydrogeologic review and coordinates with the appropriate internal and external stakeholders to address and resolve the issue.
EQT stores both fresh and impaired water in double wall tanks and open impoundments. Our impaired water impoundments are inspected weekly, have leak detection systems and are only found in West Virginia. In our other operating areas, we use tanks protected by containment that meets Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure best practices to store water produced during production. Containment at all unconventional wellpads is inspected monthly for adequacy. EQT does not currently use any wastewater for purposes other than hydraulic fracturing.
EQT uses the following definitions:
|WATER WITHDRAWn||normalized freshwater withdrawal||RECYCLED WATER|
|The water obtained from sources such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs or municipal spigots/hydrants. EQT obtains permits for its fresh water sources and adheres to all applicable local, state and federal guidelines.||The ratio of water withdrawn (in cubic meters or m3) to barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe) produced by the company.||The water that is recycled for reuse by EQT’s operations. This includes flowback, drilling water and produced water collected from drilling operations.|
As described above, our primary sources of fresh water are surface and municipal water. Rainwater continues to have a minimal effect on EQT’s water usage. Many of our water storage facilities and pits passively collect rainwater for use in our operations. However, accurately measuring total usage is difficult due to low volume and other variables.
Our fresh water withdrawal varies annually for the following reasons:
- The location and seasonal availability of fresh water may not match the location and timing of drilling and completions activity.
- The completion of more hydraulically fractured wells results in greater total water usage.
- The use of longer laterals — the horizontal portion of the well — requires more water for each completion while at the same time reducing the number of drilling pads and minimizing surface disturbance.
For the past several years, EQT has increased our utilization of recycled water, lessening our environmental footprint. We have sourced wastewater from recycling facilities and a third-party producer for the past five years.
Evaluating Our Approach
EQT tracks water withdrawals by source, whether or not any water sources are significantly affected by our operations and the quantity of water recycled. We maintain a set of best management practices for water, including digital dashboards for monitoring performance against our operational Key Performance Indicators — such as environmental incidents — and a Production Control Center to optimize schedules and monitor our assets in real time. We also leverage annual third-party environmental audits for a selection of operating facilities and sites. In 2018, we implemented a new procedure for EQT contractors to ensure compliance with water withdrawal requirements, which includes a daily review and approval process prior to water withdrawal.
EQT complies with individual state regulations and water withdrawal and wastewater limits (see Effluents and Waste for additional information). Our water withdrawal in 2018 did not significantly affect any water sources. We carefully monitor the availability of fresh water to ensure we avoid overuse when supply is limited. EQT did not use any water sourced from water-stressed areas in 2018.
|TOTAL FRESH WATER USED||5,104,603||7,109,349||1,947,309||3,382,119||8,933,455|
|TOTAL NON-FRESH WATER USED||1,070,029||1,796,028||2,160,396||2,731,089||5,358,355|
|Recycled water as % of total water used†||17%||20%||50%||42%||37%|
|Total water withdrawn‡||5,118,634||7,136,066||2,048,513||3,554,446||8,933,455|
|Recycled water as % of water withdrawn||21%||25%||101%||72%||59%|
|Wastewater recycled (%)||87%||87%||92%||91%||93%|
†Calculated by dividing the amount of recycled water by the combined total of fresh and non-fresh water sources.
‡Includes surface, municipal, groundwater and wastewater.
|Normalized Freshwater Withdrawal (m3/boe)||0.0629||0.0692||0.0158||0.0235||0.0359|
1Water Risk Filter: EQT operates primarily within areas with very low to low Baseline Water Stress (<20%) and very low risk to Water Depletion. There are some wells operated by EQT within Tioga County, Pa., with a medium Baseline Water Stress.