Triana Energy goes above and beyond with ISO 14001 certification - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Triana Energy goes above and beyond with ISO 14001 certification

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Installation of Triana’s liner and pad system.. Photo courtesy of Triana Energy. Installation of Triana’s liner and pad system.. Photo courtesy of Triana Energy.
Triana packs the voids around its wellheads with foam to prevent the accumulation of rain and oils. Photo courtesy of John King. Triana packs the voids around its wellheads with foam to prevent the accumulation of rain and oils. Photo courtesy of John King.

Imagine a shale gas boom in which wellpads never slip. Spills are almost unheard of and never reach streams or groundwater. Neighbors never complain of smells and headaches. 

Triana Energy of Charleston, for one, is operating in that boom. 

"We really have put a special focus on environmental stewardship as well as our safety practices," said James "Eddy" Grey, Triana chief operating officer. 

Triana operates wells from southern West Virginia to north-central Pennsylvania and was the No. 12 shale gas producer in West Virginia in 2011, the most recent year for which complete data are available. 

It claims to be the only producer in the Appalachian Basin that is certified by the respected International Organization for Standardization. The company became certified in 2010 to the ISO 14001 standard for Environmental Management Systems and conforms, separately, with the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Services' 18001 Occupational Health and Safety standard. 

"We do impose on ourselves a lot of internal standards that oftentimes go above and beyond what the regulatory requirements are," Grey said. 

To be ISO 14001 certified, the company created an environmental management system, or EMS. It set targets for environmental performance and designed systems to achieve the targets. It reviews its progress to ensure the targets are met and then sets new targets for continual improvement. 

Ongoing ISO review verifies independently that the EMS is effective and is actively implemented.

Fluids Management

Take, for example, a prevalent surface owner and community concern: the management of fluids. 

For Triana, complete control of fluids starts with a wellpad that Grey described as a "bathtub." 

"We put a lot of attention into the design of the sub-base, and then we use a pad beneath the liner to give it a good cushion — then the liner, all the way up and over the side berms," Grey said. The berm is a constructed earthen wall surrounding the site. 

"We also put a pad on top of the liner," he said. "Above that we put a real fine material that's almost like sand. … On top of that we put a couple inches of fine stone and then, above that, we put 6 to 8 inches of gravel. So we create a multi-layer surface above the liner that is pretty difficult to get through and get a hole in the liner. If a vehicle would pull up on location and is leaking oil or has a brake line leak, we're 100 percent contained." 

If the liner were somehow ruptured and fluids leaked through, the sub-base is compacted and sloped to collection areas. 

Beyond spills, stormwater also has to be managed. 

"We use a piping network and sumps to catch stormwater and we verify it's clean. If not, it goes through proper processing," Grey said. Captured stormwater may be used for operations, reducing the need to pipe or truck water in. 

Finally, hydraulic fracturing flowback and produced water are recycled into the next well to be fractured, Grey said. When there is no well in development close by, the fluids might be taken to another operator or to a treatment and recycling facility or, as a last resort, disposed of through underground injection in a regulated disposal well. 

Green Well Completion

In another example, Grey said Triana is ahead of the curve on the methane emissions that are the subject of Environmental Protection Agency regulation. 

During the transition between hydraulic fracturing and full production, a well emits methane and other gases that can create health problems and contribute to smog. These commonly have been vented to the air, but the EPA now is requiring producers to flare these gases and, by January 2015, to use "reduced emissions" or "green" well completion equipment to capture them and direct them into the pipeline. 

Triana is doing it now. 

"If we're in an area where we're drilling the initial wells and do not have a pipeline to that wellpad, we will flare any methane that would exhaust during that flowback phase," Grey said. 

"But in a proven area, where we have pipeline infrastructure, we'll build the pipeline to the pad prior to fracking wells," he said. "When we do that, we're able to do green completions rather than flaring. The methane actually goes into the pipeline — that's just become the standard way of doing things once we have a known field." 

A Discerning Third Party

Triana's wellpads are the best John King has seen. 

As an environmental resource analyst with the state Department of Environmental Protection's Office of the Environmental Advocate and previously a DEP water and waste inspector, King has toured many wellpads — most recently, a Triana site in Taylor County. 

"The first thing I noticed is that the Triana sites have a stabilized ditch line from the top of the wellpad all the way down to the bottom with nice little water breaks, and all lined with rocks," King said, contrasting that with sites he's seen where sediment control appears to be an afterthought.

"On the wellpad, the 60-mil liner went all the way across the wellpad and across the berm," unlike sites where there may be no liner and no berm. 

"Triana also had an oil-water separator at the corner of the pad and sediment catchments at the bottom of the pad," King said. "I thought, ‘Holy cow, this is beautiful.' I really like that ISO — it seems to me having a third party that comes around and looks at your site is a definite bonus." 

Many oil and gas operators contract wellpad construction out and accept the standards of the contractor. As operations move forward, other contractors may make changes to the pad. King said Grey told him that Triana puts one person in charge of a wellpad's integrity. 

Grey confirmed the control Triana exerts over wellpads. 

"We do hire a lot of things out. We try to employ a lot of people local to the area," he said. "But we develop our own standards in-house with our own engineers. … Then we have engineers oversee to make sure it's all physically built to our standards." 

What's involved in certification? 

The Certification Process

ISO certification typically takes from 6 to 18 months, according to managing consultant Jerry Skaggs of Trinity Consultants in Pittsburgh. One arm of Trinity helps companies set up and implement EMS, and an independent arm conducts verifying audits before registration with ISO. 

"It's not just, ‘Throw a bunch of procedures together and we're ready for registration,'" Skaggs said. "There are a lot of things that have to happen first, including identifying environmental impacts and having the employees involved in the process." 

Once a company has designed its systems, it goes through a two-stage process with an ISO registrar, he said: a readiness review with feedback, and then, a few months later, the registration assessment. After certification is complete, the registrar conducts partial reviews once or twice a year and a recertification assessment every third year. 

Cost of preparation and certification varies so widely from case to case, Skaggs said, that he did not want to put a range on it. Triana, which did not use Trinity's services, spent about $20,000 for one three-year cycle, according to Grey. 

Skaggs emphasized the ISO's beneficial culture of improvement. 

"Where you get the value out of implementing an ISO 14001 system and, really, the driver for the program as a whole is to give you that formalized discipline to continually improve your environmental performance," he said. "Without having the system in place to drive that improvement, it can drop to the back burner and you can miss opportunities for savings and reduction in impacts to the environment." 

The Bottom Line

Straight up: It costs more. 

"To do what we do up front is very expensive," Grey said. 

Although the EPA figures methane capture pays for itself, for example, Grey said that hasn't been true for Triana. 

"But if you look at the bigger picture — look at the environment, look at our greenhouse gas emissions, look at the whole world in its entirety — I guess there's more to it than that one particular well," he said. 

Good wellpad construction isn't cheap either. 

"On the other hand, if you're into a situation where you have an environmental mishap or something happens and you cause some contamination that has to be cleaned up, obviously that can be very expensive too," Grey said. "So we think that first and foremost it's the right thing to do but second, in the long run, we think it balances out." 

Triana as a thriving concern, employing 55 at its Charleston headquarters alone, seems to make that case. 

The company is even stepping up its environmental leadership, working with The Nature Conservancy to create tools and practices that would soften the impacts of shale gas development, particularly on Appalachian forests and streams. 

"This work is new and untested," Grey said. "Neither The Nature Conservancy nor Triana can be sure of the effectiveness of such tools, but in our mutual commitment to ensuring we do the best we can to protect our natural assets, we are cooperating to see if such an approach adds value," he said. "If it does, the tools and practices will be shared widely with industry, regulators, agencies and other stakeholders."