Shell launches safe shale blueprint for industry

Shell Oil is trying to take the lead in onshore shale gas and oil development with the unveiling of a set of five “Global Onshore Tight/Shale Oil and Gas Operating Principles.”

Operating principles are a framework for how Shell says it and other companies should protect water, air, biodiversity and the communities where they drill for and produce natural gas and oil.

The principles include safe well design and completion standards, water protection and reuse goals, air quality and emissions prevention measures, limits on the physical footprint of operations, and community engagement.

The move is being made in response to a growing backlash against natural gas drilling, which some regulators, residents and environmental activist say has been linked to a growing number of ground and surface water contamination incidents.

“We understand there is concern around the development of shale gas, and we must give the public more knowledge of how we operate,” said Marvin Odum, president of  Shell Oil. “People have asked the industry for transparency; we have listened and are responding.”

Shell’s five onshore tight and shale gas operating principles include:

1) Safe well design — use of two or more barrier layers between the well’s interior and rock walls, as well as steel casing and cement to protect and isolate potable groundwater zone from oil and gas production stream; public disclosure of chemicals used in hyrdraulic fracturing process; routine well safety reviews; and emergency response plans.

2) Protection of groundwater and reduction of water in process– potable groundwater aquifers isolated from well completion and production activities; groundwater supplies tested for safety before and after operations; non-potable water used in hydraulic fracturing and wastewater reccyled whenever possible.

3) Emissions reduction — work toward testing sites for “fugitive” emissions from drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations, eliminate routine venting where allowed, employ less-polluting equipment and make greater use of clean fuels like natural gas in engines.

4) Surface impact –work to reduce “footprint” of drilling and completion operations, minimize impact on local livestock and wildlife, partly by limiting activities during certain time periods; install oil and gas gathering systems and pipelines to reduce trucking; return land to original state once operations concluded.

5) Commmunity engagement — improve transparency of operations, share local socio-economic reports, hire locally and identify opportunities for local investment and partnerships.

Shell Onshore Drilling Principles