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About Shale Gas Development

Shale gas development is an exciting achievement in the search for energy independence and sustainability in the United States. However, one of the utmost concerns when tapping any energy source is minimizing and protecting its impact on the environment and surrounding communities. In order to address these concerns, policy makers and industry regulators are working with development companies to create a set of guidelines for reducing environmental harm during production. The main concerns of risk management center around operations, innovations in technology, and community engagement and impact.

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Industry Best Practices and Procedures
These objects can be met with proper training of personnel, clear communications and implementation of stated objectives within the company and with the community and general public, and through careful planning and taking proactive measures.

Best practices in the development of shale gas production works on five levels:

  • The prevention and reduction of environmental hazards during the excavation and production process
  • Improvement of response to incidents
  • Protection of workers
  • Reduction of the impact on the local community
  • Reduction of the impact on the local eco-system

Individual companies must have in place a detailed plan for the prevention of environmental hazards before they occur, and care must be taken to ensure that all employees are carefully screened and trained in safety procedures. There should be a protocol in place in the event of a spill or other indecent, with each person in the chain of command aware of their role in the containment and clean up process. Employee training and education should be an ongoing process.

The careful selection of drilling sites should be considered. Ideally, drilling sites are located in areas where there is least likelihood of disruption of the quality of life in the local community. Companies should avoid locating industrial sites or drilling in areas that are culturally sensitive, and wells should be located in areas with the lowest possibility of damage to the local infrastructure and eco-systems. The health and safety of workers and members of the community is of primary importance. Site location should also focus on reducing noise and air pollution by intelligent design and selection of drilling sites with regard to their proximity to local businesses, residences, and schools.

Industrial accidents and environmental impact is lessened by utilization and development of innovations in technology and production practices, such as:

  • Constructing permanent division structures to contain waste water
  • Devising a secondary containment unit in the case of a breech
  • Clustering multiple wells on a single drilling pad
  • The use of closed-loop drilling systems
  • Waste material separation units to reduce the amount of disposable waste and facilitate the recycling of waste water

Communication is another important consideration, both within the company and in the community at large. Reducing the concerns of the communities that are affected by gas drilling and production begins with clear and honest communication between companies and local governments and residents to address their concerns. Open dialogue and engagement with the community should be ongoing. Their should also be a plan in place to address grievances.

Proper creation and implementation of industry-wide risk management policies will help shale gas put the United States at the forefront in the production and development of clean, safe energy sources in the global marketplace. Increased production will also favourably impact the U.S. economy and job creation.

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