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CSSD Certifies Third Appalachian Operator With Largest Operational Audit Yet

The Pittsburgh-based Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD) issued its third certification Tuesday, this one to Consol Energy Inc., confirming with its most wide-ranging audit yet that the company is in compliance with all 15 of its performance standards for oil and gas development in the Appalachian Basin.

Consol was certified in air and climate and water and waste. The company said the process began in October when it sent a trove of documents detailing its operations in three states to the independent auditing firm Bureau Veritas. In November, the firm started reviewing company documents, conducting staff interviews and making visits to 30 Consol sites in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania. 

“The different thing about Consol is this was [CSSD’s] largest audit from a coverage area perspective,” said Consol’s Katharine Fredriksen, senior vice president of environmental and regulatory affairs. “We are the largest company to go through the process so far, with active operations in three states and multiple counties, so that was sort of the first challenge for Bureau Veritas and Consol.”

Like other companies’ certifications, Consol's is valid for two years. After that, operators can seek renewal. During the two-year period, CSSD continues to monitor the companies for compliance. Fredriksen said Consol plans to renew in two years.

Royal Dutch Shell plc's Appalachian operations were fully certified in March, and Chevron Appalachia LLC was the first to be certified by the center last September (see Shale Daily, March 18; Sept. 18, 2014). But unlike Consol, only Shell’s Pennsylvania operations were certified, with auditors visiting 17 sites in the state. Auditors visited 22 Chevron sites in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, but 16 of those sites were in Pennsylvania.

The center requires that at least 50% of a company’s active operations be inspected, Fredriksen said, adding that Consol didn’t “know where auditors would show up, but [we] knew everything was subject.”

CSSD was established in early 2013 and brought together environmental organizations and energy companies to ensure that shale gas resources are safely developed in the basin. Industry participants include Chevron, Consol, Shell and EQT Corp.

The Clean Air Task Force, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Pennsylvania Environmental Council are also among the center's partners. CSSD began accepting applications for certification in January 2014 (see Shale Daily, Jan. 22, 2014). It remains unclear if CSSD is working to certify any non-participating producers, however. CSSD spokesman Tim O'Brien said the organization does not comment on pending applications until they are approved and announced. 

Consol started preparing for the process shortly after CSSD began accepting applications. Fredriksen said the certification was rigorous but added that it is already paying off for the company.

CSSD required green completion equipment before the federal government and more efficient flaring systems as well. The green completion equipment has helped Consol recover 4 Bcf of natural gas that would have otherwise been flared without it. Meeting the center’s flaring requirements has also helped Consol reduce its volatile organic compound emissions by 4.7 tons and carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 2,000 metric tons.

Certification typically takes three to six months, and companies must meet a set of standards that were crafted with state regulators and industry participants. Those standards either meet or exceed state and federal air and water requirements, said CSSD Executive Director Susan LeGros. Once an application is finalized, it is sent to a certification committee not affiliated with CSSD participants for approval.

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