environmental
Water

Why It Matters to Us

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Explanation of the material topic and its Boundary

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Natural gas production requires water to operate sophisticated processes and procedures. Effectively managing our impact on water consumption and quality is critical to safeguarding human and ecological health while maintaining access to the water sources we need to operate. At EQT, we work to uphold high standards of water management to preserve stakeholder trust, minimize our environmental impact and protect our license to operate.

What We Are Doing

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The management approach and its components

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We recognize that natural gas development activities are water intensive, and we are dedicated to protecting water resources by operating responsibly. We utilize best-in-class management practices for evaluating water sources, permitting locations, operating withdrawal sites and discharging water. We identify potential risks at each stage of our operations and implement appropriate mitigation measures. Further, we strive to protect the fresh water in our communities by investing in new technology, leveraging industry best practices and reusing water whenever possible. We strongly support transparency and disclose the chemical makeup of our fracturing fluids. In 2019, we focused on improving our data collection capabilities to drive visibility and accountability.

Governance

EQT’s Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) department, led by our Director, Environmental Affairs, is responsible for the oversight and management of all aspects of our environmental footprint, including following water-related procedures and meeting permit requirements. This department reports to the Vice President, Environmental, Health and Safety. Our Completion and Production teams are responsible for overseeing the management of operations, including associated water use. Each quarter, we share environmental progress, including violations, with the Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility Committee of our Board of Directors.

Water Withdrawals

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Water withdrawal by source

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We operate within the Appalachian Basin, which has a relatively abundant supply of water with low to moderate baseline water stress when compared to other basins in the United States. That said, we understand water is a precious resource and effectively managing any amount of water use is important. Prior to initiating any water withdrawal, we assess the water source to determine a reasonable rate that can be extracted without harming the existing uses supported by the water source and obtain approval from the appropriate regulatory bodies.

During our operations, we strive to minimize the quantity of fresh water used and mindfully select water sources close to our well pads to minimize transportation, and select sources with adequate, sustainable capacity to support our withdrawal without impacting the watershed. Regulatory agencies in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio issue permits to us for water withdrawal based on the availability and quality of local supplies. We have procedures in place to ensure that we maintain compliance with our water permitting and reporting requirements.

As much as possible, we use our own or third party produced water for our operations to minimize freshwater withdrawals. We use the following definitions:

Water Withdrawn/Water Consumption Normalized Fresh Water Withdrawn Recycled Water
The water obtained from sources such as lakes, rivers, reservoirs or municipal spigots/hydrants for immediate use in our operations. We obtain permits for our freshwater sources and adhere to all applicable local, state and federal guidelines. Due to the nature of natural gas extraction, virtually all water we withdraw is used immediately; therefore, ‘water withdrawal’ and ‘water consumption’ are synonymous. The ratio of water withdrawn (in cubic meters or m3) to barrels of oil equivalent per day (BOE) produced. The water that is recycled for reuse in our operations. This includes flowback, drilling water and produced water collected from drilling operations.

We cooperate with state agencies to obtain permits for each of our water withdrawal sites, which includes a full evaluation of each respective watershed. We adhere to agency recommendations on flow rates and do not exceed the maximum daily allowance to protect the quality and quantity of each source. Surface water withdrawals are taken in accordance with a state-approved water management plan to prevent withdrawal during low-flow conditions. This process also helps ensure there is adequate water available for aquatic species and downstream users. In addition to surface water withdrawal, we obtain water from municipalities in accordance with contracts with local or regional municipal water suppliers. We oversee our contractors’ compliance with water withdrawal requirements using a daily review and approval process prior to water withdrawal.

Monitoring Impacts

Well integrity is critical in preventing impacts on water supplies typically found within a few hundred feet of the surface. To protect these shallow aquifers, we drill the section of a well that could potentially contain any fresh water using fresh water, soap and air. After drilling the freshwater section of the well, steel pipes (casings) are cemented in the borehole to protect groundwater and allow production of gas. We perform casing pressure tests and run cement bond logs as required by individual state regulations and submit reports on these tests and logs to the applicable state agency. As of December 31, 2019, we have never had a well integrity failure that resulted in an impact on the environment.

Our water-well protection program includes conducting both pre- and post-drill sampling at landowners’ private water supplies. We analyze water supplies — including water wells, springs, ponds and streams — for general water quality constituents as well as metals, dissolved gas, petroleum constituents and, if warranted, bacteriological parameters. We also follow the Marcellus Shale Coalition’s recommendation for pre-drill water supply surveys. We conduct multiple pre-drill samplings for all water sources within 3,000 feet of the site and post-drill sampling for sources within 1,500 feet of the site based on hydrogeological conditions and other factors as necessary to protect domestic water supplies.

We maintain a database of pre- and post-drill results and submit analytical results to the property owner as well as the relevant state environmental agency. We examine every landowner quality or quantity concern that is brought to our attention. In the case of a perceived issue, we immediately conduct a thorough hydrogeologic review and coordinate with the appropriate internal and external stakeholders to address and resolve the issue.

We store both fresh and recycled water in double wall tanks and open impoundments, where permitted. Our impaired water impoundments, located only in West Virginia, are inspected weekly and have leak detection systems. We do not currently have plans to create any new impaired water impoundments. In our other operating areas, we use tanks protected by containment that meet Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure best practices to store water produced during production. Containment at all unconventional sites is inspected monthly for adequacy.

To further improve water efficiency, we are in the process of transitioning away from water transportation by truck. Instead, we are working to source all fresh water for our operations from pipelines, which reduces truck traffic, our carbon footprint and air emissions. In cases where water is transported via truck, we are working to increase our visibility of water use by installing water meters on vehicles to improve water management accountability.

Wastewater Management

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Water sources significantly affected by withdrawal of water

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In addition to adhering to applicable local and federal regulations, we follow best practices for safe wastewater disposal. We frequently evaluate wastewater treatment technologies that could further reduce disposal amounts. For instance, we are exploring the use of evaporation-based treatment technologies to treat wastewater at select locations. These technologies concentrate the waste stream and reduce the amount of wastewater needing disposal.

We also work to recycle the majority of our wastewater after the completion of a well by collecting flowback, drilling and produced water to reuse when fracturing new wells. We also collaborate with local peers to promote the sharing of wastewater for reuse. Throughout the past several years, depending on activity levels, we have historically recycled an average of 90% of the wastewater we generate. In 2019, despite decreased activity levels for the entire industry, thereby reducing demand for produced water, we were still able to recycle 81% of our impaired water. To enhance our recycling capabilities, we began using a third-party storage facility to safely store wastewater until it is ready for reuse. We do not currently use any wastewater for purposes other than hydraulic fracturing.

Any wastewater that cannot be recycled is disposed of at permitted commercial disposal facilities. We typically employ underground injection control wells in Ohio, where formations are most suitable for injection. We conduct routine inspections of these facilities to confirm compliance with operating permits. We constantly explore alternatives to injection for any wastewater we are unable to recycle.

We understand that increased seismic activity due to wastewater disposal can be a concern for stakeholders. Deep-well injection represents an estimated 10% of our total wastewater disposal each year, and Ohio recently upgraded its injection and permitting program to further address potential seismicity risks. Additionally, the overall volumes injected in Ohio are relatively small compared to other states that have experienced seismicity, such as Oklahoma, where the injection is roughly 50 times greater than Ohio.

Hydraulic Fracturing

SASB EM-EP-140a.3
Percentage of hydraulically fractured wells for which there is public disclosure of all fracturing fluid chemicals used

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Natural gas extraction often involves the process of hydraulic fracturing — the process of injecting fluid into the well to create pressure to crack the underground shale formation and release the natural gas contained in the formation. The fluid injected into the well, referred to as fracturing fluid, is composed of water mixed with sand and a small percentage of chemical additives. To reduce the potential for groundwater impacts, our wells are completed with multiple layers of steel casing and cement through a process known as triple casing, which seals and isolates freshwater zones.

We are proud to be a charter registrant of FracFocus.org, an independent website created by the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission to disclose chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing. FracFocus decouples trade names from individual ingredients on the chemical disclosure form by listing all the ingredients without the specific recipe. We publicly disclose via FracFocus all of the chemicals used in our hydraulically fractured wells and regularly update such disclosures.

Additionally, we continuously explore more environmentally friendly alternatives for our fluids. We do not use diesel additives in our fracturing fluid and have continuously worked to optimize and reduce the amount of other chemicals used. Our fracturing fluids are limited to bactericide, friction reducer and minimum concentrations of scale inhibitor when needed.

How We Are Doing

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Evaluation of the management approach

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Water recycled and reused

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Water consumption

SASB EM-EP-140a.1
(1) Total fresh water withdrawn, (2) total fresh water consumed, percentage of each in regions with High or Extremely High Baseline Water Stress

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SASB EM-EP-140a.1

We maintain dashboards in our digital work environment to monitor our performance against key operational indicators, including environmental incidents. Incorporating our data collection processes into our digital work environment has driven internal transparency and accountability and improved data accuracy. We also leverage a Production Control Center to optimize schedules and monitor our assets in real time, and utilize annual third-party environmental audits for select operating facilities and sites.

We track all water withdrawals by source. In almost all cases, we consume the water we withdraw immediately, and do not store water for long periods of time; therefore our withdrawal and consumption are effectively the same. As shown in the table below, our primary sources of water in 2019 were surface and municipal water. While many of our water storage facilities and pits passively collect rainwater for use in our operations, rainwater continues to have a minimal effect on our water usage. Our freshwater use varies annually for the following reasons:

  • The location and seasonal availability of fresh water may not match the location and timing of drilling and completions activity.
  • The completion of more hydraulically fractured wells results in greater total water usage.
  • The use of longer laterals — the horizontal portion of the well — requires more water for each completion on an absolute basis for each well, but reduces our overall water needs at a corporate level.
Water Withdrawal/Consumption1
Unit  Metric 

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

thousands of m3       

Freshwater withdrawal from:

Surface water

5,302 

1,352  2,361  5,453 1,208 
   Groundwater 157  15  60

Third-party water (third party and municipal)

1,651  579  961  3,472  6,275 
TOTAL FRESH WATER CONSUMED[2]  

7,110

1,946  3,382  8,933  7,483 
Non-Freshwater sources:  Produced water[3] 1,769  2,059  2,559  5,298  2,672 

Wastewater[4]

27  101  172  60  22 
TOTAL NON-FRESH WATER CONSUMED  1,796 2,160 2,731 5,358 2,694
TOTAL WATER CONSUMED  8,906 4,106 6,113 14,291 10,177
 ML/Bcfe Production Water consumption intensity  11.0 2.5 3.8 6.0 5.0
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Water discharge

SASB EM-EP-140a.2
Volume of produced water and flowback generated; percentage (1) discharged, (2) injected, (3) recycled; hydrocarbon content in discharged water

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Percentage of hydraulic fracturing sites where ground or surface water quality deteriorated compared to a baseline

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SASB EM-EP-140a.2
SASB EM-EP-140a.4

We do not intentionally discharge any produced water to surface water, which is why we do not disclose a strategy or standards for relevant disposal and treatment. During 2019, we did not hold any permits to discharge wastewater and there were no occurrences of groundwater or surface water impacts resulting from our hydraulic fracturing operations conducted in targeted formations.

Produced Water
Unit  Metric

2016

2017

2018

2019

thousands of m3  

Water discharged to groundwater[5]

 0

Water discharged to third-party water[6]

138

28  830 

TOTAL VOLUME OF PRODUCED WATER

1,690

1,623 3,631 3,460
thousands of m(%)    Amount and % of produced water discharged 0 0 0 0
Amount and % of produced water injected 194 (11.5%) 240 (14.8%)

269 (7%)

659 (19%)

Amount and % of produced water recycled 1,497 (88.5%)

1,383 (85.2%)

3,362 (93%)

2,801 (81%) 
metric tons  Volume of hydrocarbons discharged to the environment via water

1 Due to the nature of natural gas extraction, virtually all water we withdraw is used immediately; therefore, ‘water withdrawal’ and ‘water consumption’ are synonymous. EQT does not withdraw sea water.

2 Please note, EQT operates primarily within areas with very low to low Baseline Water Stress (<20%) and very low risk to Water Depletion (Water Risk Filter). Some wells operated by EQT within Tioga County, Pennsylvania have medium Baseline Water Stress.

3 Includes all impaired water (produced, flowback, drilling, containment and cellar water).

4 Includes recycled water from other Operators.

5 2019 discharge figures were calculated using exact and estimated volumes: West Virginia is not required to track discharge; therefore, West Virginia volumes were estimated based on average discharge rate/day.

6 Includes water discharges sent to recycling facilities.

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