Supermajors move to set shale standards

22 March 2013, London – Oil and gas majors, Shell and Chevron, have joined efforts with green groups and philanthropies to form a first-of-its-kind organisation to ensure shale-gas development in the Appalachian basin is done in an environmentally responsible way.

The oil giants are among the founding member of the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based Centre for Sustainable Shale Development, CSSD, which aims to provide producers in the basin with third-party certifications of “progressive and rigorous” performance standards.

The group has outlined 15 initial voluntary standards, including limited flaring, maximum water recycling and a reduction in the toxicity of the fracking fluid. It hopes to start issuing certifications later this year.

“While shale development has been controversial, everyone agrees that, when done, producers must minimise environmental risk,” said Armond Cohen, executive director of Clean Air Task Force, another CSSD founding organisation.

The standards would likely go further than any existing state or federal regulations require.

“These standards are the state of the art on how to accomplish that goal, so we believe all Appalachian shale producers should join CSSD, and the standards should also serve as a model for national policy and practise,” Cohen added.

Other founding members of CSSD include the Environmental Defence Fund, the Heinz Endowments, EQT Corp, Consol Energy and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. Organisers hope others will join over time.

Nicholas DeIuliis, president of gas producer Consol Energy, said the standards will initially address “the protection of air and water quality and climate, and will be expanded to include other performance standards such as safety”.

“Fundamentally, the aim is for these standards to represent excellence in performance,” he said in a statement.

CSSD will offer certifications for operators in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio, where companies are targeting the Marcellus and Utica shales.

Bruce Niemeyer, president of Chevron Appalachia, said: “Raising the bar on performance and committing to public, rigorous and verifiable standards demonstrates our companies’ determination to develop this resource safely and responsibly.”

CSSD will have an initial budget of about $1 million, funded equally by industry and philanthropies.

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