Pa. Has Toughest Rules on Spilling

Safety issues considered at oil & gas conference

Wheeling Intelligencer
9 April 2014
By Ian Hicks, Staff Writer

WHEELING - When it comes to containing spills at natural gas drilling operations, Pennsylvania requires much more of companies operating within its borders than its neighbors in West Virginia and Ohio.

The topic of spill containment has drawn much attention since the Jan. 9 Freedom Industries chemical leak that contaminated the water of more than 300,000 Charleston-area residents, leading to a new state law requiring more frequent inspections of such tanks. Locally, a proposal by GreenHunter Water to build a recycling facility along the Ohio River in the Warwood area of Wheeling for water used in hydraulic fracturing has many residents concerned about what would happen should a spill occur.

Spills - and what companies must do to prevent them from impacting waterways when they occur - was the topic of a presentation Tuesday by Beth Powell of New Pig Energy, a Tipton, Pa., company that provides liners and other spill containment systems for the oil and gas industry, during the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association's inaugural ShaleSafe Conference at Oglebay Park in Wheeling.

While regulations in West Virginia and Ohio focus more on containment of fuel and other oil-based substances, Powell said the Keystone State took things a step further in 2012 by also requiring spill containment systems wherever there is flowback - also called produced water - from natural gas wells that may also contain sand and other chemicals used in the fracking process.

"Pennsylvania is the first state that has containment regulations on the water side for flowback," Powell said.

And in addition to well sites, Pennsylvania law is more stringent when it comes to spill control around storage tanks. Pennsylvania requires containment systems able to handle 110 percent of the volume of the largest tank on site, while West Virginia and Ohio law requires just 100 percent, with some additional consideration for rainfall.

While spill containment is important in all cases, Powell said, it is particularly so when diesel fuel is involved - which she said can be dangerous and costly to clean up when it comes in contact with the ground.

"We're talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars," she said.