As record amounts of natural gas from shale formations are efficiently produced and brought to market, this homegrown fuel source is being increasingly utilized to power our economy. In fact, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas – for the first time ever – is forecasted to be the nation’s leading energy source for electricity generation in 2016.
Antero – the 2nd largest natural gas producer in the Appalachian Basin and 8th nationally – takes its responsibility to safeguard and improve the environment, especially air quality, seriously and aims to meet and, when possible, exceed applicable local, state and federal requirements.
As part of its commitment to the environment, the community where the company is privileged to operate, and to its shareholders, Antero has robust operational protocols and best management practices with respect to minimizing emissions in place along with a focus and clear record of continuously advancing technologies that create shared environmental benefits.
Core to this commitment is the company’s broad based efforts to effectively manage and reduce operations-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including methane (CH4), which is a valuable resource. Antero’s Health, Safety & Environment and Operations departments work in tandem to identify solutions that further reduce or eliminate GHG including methane emissions – and ultimately increase methane capture as well as marketable sales.
- Operationally, Antero leverages state-of-the-art emissions recovery technologies – such as green completions, vapor recovery units and towers, among others – that capture and direct methane directly to pipeline for sale.
- To further reduce methane emissions, Antero also utilizes an aggressive Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) program. In addition, state-of-the-art emission controls, including combustors and engine catalysts, are installed at Antero’s operating sites to holistically and more effectively manage emissions.
- Additionally, Antero has converted a portion of its field vehicle fleet and drilling rigs to natural gas – and also utilizes natural gas as a fuel to power completion units used in completions activities – to further reduce GHG emissions directly resulting from its operations.
- Antero’s industry-leading water management systems – including its integrated freshwater pipeline delivery system and the ongoing development of the Antero Clearwater advanced wastewater treatment and reuse facility – are dramatically reducing truck traffic typically associated with exploration and development activities, thereby enhancing air quality through a dramatic reduction in vehicle emissions.
Clean Completion Unit
Antero has taken concrete, actionable steps to further reduce methane emissions since March 2005, when the company engaged local community stakeholders in Colorado in discussions on how to more effectively minimize its environmental footprint. This collaborative, community-focused approach – which Antero takes across all of its operations – results in meaningful interaction with the local community which helps inform solutions to operational issues.
As one of the first operators to implement "green completions" in Colorado in July 2011, Antero used equipment and technologies designed in part by company engineers and scientists. After initial testing confirmed the viability and effectiveness of the Antero-designed green completions units, the company implemented these proven technologies in the Appalachian Basin in 2012.
In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) promulgated New Source Performance Standards (NSPS Quad O) that require the use of reduced emission completions, or green completions for hydraulically fractured natural gas wells. While the EPA’s requirement did not go into effect until January 2015, Antero has been utilizing green completions across all its operations since 2012, reflecting the company’s long and clear commitment to effectively managing methane emissions and protecting air quality.
Green Completion Unit
In addition to combustors, Antero also installs vapor recovery units (VRUs) to capture and direct methane to a sales pipeline, rather than flaring the gas. Per applicable NSPS Quad O regulations, the company installs low-bleed pneumatic controls at well pads, which also reduce methane emissions. At certain sites, Vapor Recovery Towers (VRT) are utilized to reduce flashing of emissions from storage tanks.
Vapor Recovery Tower
Leak Detection and Repair
An important component of Antero’s rigorous and innovative emissions control program consists of performing regular inspections and preventative maintenance and repairs to minimize leakage. For example, Antero has implemented an LDAR program for the company’s well pads and compressor station operations. This program includes the use of state-of-the-art Forward Looking Infra-Red (FLIR) cameras to conduct optical gas imaging (OGI) inspections which identify the smallest of leaks. In the vast majority of cases, Antero performs repairs the same day a leak is detected. In 2015, Antero added six dedicated full-time staff members to manage its LDAR program. While the LDAR program is not mandatory in all areas where Antero operates, the company has elected to implement it across to all areas of operations in West Virginia and Ohio.
The company’s Operations group has a maintenance program in place – which includes cleaning, greasing and replacing thief hatch seals and other measures as required – to further minimize any potential storage tank leaks. Antero also uses newly designed thief hatches with improved seals for our tanks. Antero believes that its efforts to date have resulted in a reduction of methane emissions from its operating sites based on the decreasing number of leaks detected on a monthly basis under our LDAR program.
When Antero constructs a well pad or compressor station, the company is required to install emission control equipment in accordance with NSPS requirements. At well pads, this consists of installing combustors that reduce methane emissions from storage tanks by 98 percent.
Antero also carefully manages GHG emissions from its compressor station operations through the use of non-selective catalytic controls, which results in an engine emission reduction of 97 percent. Compressor station tank and dehydration unit emissions are controlled by combustors or VRUs that reduce methane emissions.
Results-Focused Continuous Improvement
Antero’s investment decisions incorporate comprehensive air quality and emissions management concerns and continue to drive significant GHG emissions reductions, which create value and benefits for the environment as well as for shareholders.
The company’s commitment to driving cost-effective operational efficiencies – which create economic and environmental benefits as well as shareholder and community value – are reflected in Antero’s freshwater pipeline delivery system. Among the various and key benefits of this nearly $500 million investment are the elimination of more than 820,000 fresh water truck trips through year-end 2015.
And building on this progress, the Antero Clearwater facility – which is centrally located within Antero’s core acreage position to maximize efficiencies – will on average reduce produced water truck travel by more than 10 million miles annually once fully operational. This nearly 50 percent reduction in water-related truck travel not only further reduces roadway impacts, but will also cut GHG emissions by an average of more than 30,000 tons each year. What’s more, approximately 95 percent of Antero’s water will be treated at the Clearwater facility, virtually eliminating the need for wastewater disposal wells.
And while Antero’s emissions profile will likely vary from year to year – a function of activity and production levels – the company is well-positioned for long-term, continued and sustained progress in reducing both methane and total GHG emissions that will be guided at every step by its commitment to environmental protection.
Antero recognizes that its collaborative efforts and focus on technological advancements as well as environmental stewardship across all of its operations are a continuous process. The company also takes seriously its commitment to not only utilize new technologies as they become available, but as we have been in the past, also to be a source of industry-leading practices that further reduce GHG and methane emissions.
Regulatory compliance is a top Antero priority. Since 2011, Antero has annually calculated and reported its GHG emissions to the EPA, per the agency’s requirement.
In addition to its compliance program, the company also regularly participates in both federal and state environmental rulemaking addressing, among other issues, methane emission reduction. Through this collaborative rulemaking approach, Antero maintains strong working relationships with the regulatory agencies and fosters the development and implementation of environmental programs based on sound scientific data.