CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Department of Environmental Protection has set May 31 as the deadline for extinguishing a flare that has been burning gases from three Nicholas County Marcellus Shale exploration wells for more than six months, despite state laws limiting natural gas flaring to 30 days per year.
Dallas-based Bluescape Resources Co. began flaring gas from three Marcellus wells near Fenwick on Aug. 28 last year. Responding to citizen complaints about the prolonged flaring, mainly from the newly formed organization Stand Up Now, the DEP's Division of Air Quality inspected the Fenwick area site on Oct. 12 and issued BRC a notice of violation Oct. 26.
On Nov. 14, in a response to the violation notice, company officials said BRC had to flare the natural gas produced by the wells since "no pipeline exists in the area" to collect and transport the gas. Lacking a pipeline, gas from the wells had to be released, measured and burned "to test the viability of the natural gas reserves in the area," they said.
A pipeline linking the Richwood area to Frametown is being planned.
The company response went on to state that BRC could not "shut in the wells or the flare without suffering irreparable financial damage." The Fenwick area wells "are generating data on natural gas reserves in a portion of the state that has previously not been tested. The information being generated is crucial not only to BRC but to the mineral owners and other lessees in the area."
BRC maintained in its response letter that prior to installing the wells, the company consulted with the DEP's Office of Oil and Gas about flaring plans at the Fenwick site, and was told that no permits were needed.
In late November, the company filed a request for a temporary permit to continue operating the flare. On Dec. 7, a meeting was held with Division of Air Quality personnel to discuss the permit and resolve the notice of violation. On Dec. 15, the DAQ sent BRC a Notice of Deficiency letter seeking more information from the company in order to process the temporary permit.
In the recently released consent order, dated Feb. 22, BRC agreed, among other things, to convert the flare from a vertical to a horizontal configuration, to monitor for visible emissions, and to cease operating the flare "on or before combusting a total of 1,321 million standard cubic feet, or no later than May 31, 2012, whichever is sooner."
BRC also agreed to pay an administrative penalty of $50,000 to resolve all DAQ violations.