Being Good Stewards
East Division - Pennsylvania
We go to great lengths to ensure our work has minimal impact on area water, land and wildlife.
Well pads are strategically located – placing them a proper distance from water sources and designated environmental areas - to protect mutual rights, comply with regulations and maximize production.
Once a location is selected, Seneca exceeds the state requirement of 3,000 feet when surveying and testing private water sources. Seneca instead performs pre-drilling water samples on any water source up to a 4,000-foot radius from the center of the pad to obtain a baseline measurement. An independent company is hired to complete interviews with the landowner, take photos and to collect the sample. That data is shared with both the homeowner and the PaDEP.
|Seneca pad construction includes primary and secondary containment seen here on Pad T in the Eastern Development Area.
The company will improve and use existing roads when possible, but in many cases, we will create an access road to allow heavy equipment to reach the site. To date, Seneca has upgraded 150 miles of public use road in the development area with limestone running surfaces and improved erosion and sedimentation controls. This has reduced or eliminated historical sediment pollution from entering the high quality streams in the areas we work. It has also added much needed alkalinity to the watersheds.
Once road updates and construction are completed, we begin clearing the area where the rig will sit. The well pad is reshaped with earth, stones and protective devices to provide a safe, flat working area. We also install protective liners and erosion controls to protect the surface.
In 2012, Seneca revamped its practices for pad construction. The company now completes the majority of its pad construction in Pennsylvania during summer and fall months to provide better protection from weather-related issues.
|Seneca contractors place the steel and wooden rig mat system.
Our pad construction exceeds state requirements and has as many as three layers of containment to prevent fluids from reaching the surrounding soil in the event of a spill or leak. We utilize closed loop drilling systems. All liquids or solids that may be considered residual or hazardous waste require their own containment in all aspects of our operations as a means of protecting surface and groundwater resources throughout the life of a well. A “well liner” covers the pad surface. The liner is made from a 7-layer composite of ultra-tough polypropylene, with three barrier films sandwiched by double layers of needle-punched geotextile. The primary drilling area is covered by an additional impervious liner and a steel and wooden rig mat system, which supports the equipment and primary and secondary containment systems. All wastes involved in drilling are managed in primary containment in the form of tanks or bins that reside within the primary drilling area, and which themselves are always placed inside a secondary containment designed to capture and control spills or leaks. In addition, we store all produced or recycled water in steel tanks or bins.
In addition to utilizing secondary containment around our steel tanks, Seneca uses Guided Wave Radar (GWR) to constantly monitor tank levels on pad sites. This measurement is connected to a safety function that would shut down the pad if the tanks were ever to become too full. Seneca also uses “cross-top tubing” to common manifold all the tanks together. If a tank were to fill up, it would overflow into the connected tank battery before triggering the safety shut down.
Except for fresh water, we do not store any liquids in open ponds or pits for any operations. Further, we do not use unlined pits for anything, but rather use lined impoundments for fresh water.
|   Photo courtesy of Marcellus Shale Coalition.
Marcellus and Utica wells are constructed to provide a shield between energy production and the environment. To ensure safety, these wells are constructed with redundant layers of steel piping, called casing, that is cemented into place. Each well requires about 3 million pounds of steel and cement. These layers of steel and cement are pressure tested to help ensure we have an effective barrier between energy production and underground water supplies. Seneca is also committed to using American made pipe in its East Division operations.
In the end, we aim to leave a site as close to the way we found it or better. And we are committed to working with the surface owner to restore their property to a level that meets or exceeds their expectations. Drilling is clearly a construction process, but it is temporary. Remediation to full satisfaction will take time and is influenced by weather conditions. It’s our goal that our landowners are satisfied partners from start to finish. Seneca has safely and responsibly operated in the Marcellus shale region for over 100 years and intends to do so for years to come.
After a well has reached its economic life, it will be scheduled for plugging and abandonment. The type of well and its original construction determines how the well is plugged. Typically, a series of cement plugs are placed throughout the well bore to ensure surface formations are protected from the producing zones. The production tubing and any related downhole equipment are removed along with any remaining surface equipment. The wellhead is cut off and replaced with a marker, typically a short piece of pipe, cemented on top of the old well bore. The surface area is re-contoured to its original state and re-seeded in accordance with state rules and regulations and with input from the landowner. As re-vegetation of the site takes hold over time, the only thing visible is the plug and abandon marker denoting the location of the well bore.
West Division - California
Since taking ownership of its Sespe oil wells, Seneca continues to reduce its total footprint. By 2016, Seneca had removed 40 tanks, nine treater units and 73,000 feet (13.8 miles) of pipelines, with plans to remove an additional 78,000 feet (approx. 14 miles) of historic pipelines by 2020. Seneca has also worked to update SCADA monitoring systems and add automatic shutdown valves throughout its pipeline systems. The company has spent and will continue to spend millions over the next few years to replace and modernize its Sespe gathering system that leads to a recently upgraded processing facility. The above ground pipe system, along with containment berms around all facilities and renovated weeper dams, will aid in detection and containment of any leaked liquids. Similar efforts to adopt new technology and efficiencies can be seen across its California footprint.
Seneca has operated in the Sespe area since 1987 and recognizes the importance of condor mitigation measures. Seneca’s practices comply with all California Bureau of Land Management measures, and in some places go beyond them. The company took additional action after consultation with U.S. Fish & Wildlife, including perimeter fencing around pads where condors have landed; burying and re-orienting electrical lines; adding whirly birds for pumping units to deter landings; grating over well cellars and updated educational seminars for employees and contractors. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, these rigorous condor protection measures have resulted in not a single California condor ever being harmed as a result of Seneca’s operations. These extra protections are also part of the reason Seneca Resources was named Operator of the Year by the BLM in 2012.
Located near the city of Taft, Kern County at the North Midway Sunset Oil Field, Seneca’s new 3.1 megawatt (MW) photovoltaic system was completed in July 2016. The project is estimated to generate approximately 5,400,000 kilowatt hours (“kWh”) of electricity annually, all of which will be consumed onsite by Seneca’s crude oil production equipment at the oil field.
Seneca is pleased to report that this project meets the requirements set forth in the Low Carbon Fuel Standard regulations as an “innovative method” to produce crude oil. This groundbreaking approach to energy production is something of which Seneca is very proud. The project is California’s largest solar photovoltaic system in the industry.
Seneca has worked to reduce its electricity needs by installing Lufkin Well Manager- Rod Pump Controllers that match pump capacity to the reservoir which can reduce electrical consumption by an average of 20 percent. At metering sites, all vessel relief valve discharges have been routed to a tank. A remote monitoring and control system is used to continuously monitor the liquid level in the tank and if liquid is detected the Rod Pump Controllers are used to automatically shut down wells.