Drillers who use the EPA-ordered “green completion” process to purify natural gas could save millions of dollars.
Natural gas operators traditionally have vented or burned off a well’s initial production to clear out impurities before tying the well to a pipeline. Now a new process known as “green completion,” which filters out hydraulic fracturing fluids, drilling debris and sand, is being employed by more operators because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed rules this year requiring drillers to use the process nationwide by 2015, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. EPA regulations that became effective on Oct. 15 prevent drillers from venting the gas into the atmosphere without burning, and with the new green completion requirement — which exempts “exploratory wells unconnected to pipelines” — the agency says these measures will save drillers “up to $19 million a year” through the capture and sale of natural gas that would otherwise be wasted, the article said.
The five gas wells that EQT Corp. completed last month at a remote site in Greene County’s Washington Township are typical. Compared to a gas flare, which roars like a jet engine and licks the sky with flame like a giant welder’s torch, green completion is dull and quiet.
EQT is not the only drilling company that has embraced green completions. The equipment for separating the gas from the “flowback” has been perfected over the last decade and in the next three years, using it will become standard practice across the nation.
“What was true yesterday is no longer true today,” said Andrew Place, director of public policy research at EQT, based in Pittsburgh. “Systems are evolving.”
Much of the new technology has been driven to address fears about drilling, including hydraulic fracturing, the extraction technique that has turned impermeable shale into a bonanza of oil and gas.
“Public concerns have pushed the engineers to come up with solutions,” Place said.