Seeking to create a uniform standard for how the oil and gas industry in the Appalachian Basin goes about drill site planning, developing and restoring the landscape once operations are complete, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC) has released its first Recommended Practices (RP) report.

In order to extract natural gas from the Marcellus Shale and deliver it to end-users, the MSC noted that the construction of well pads, access roads, water and gas pipelines, gas transmission lines, and gas-compression, processing and other facilities is necessary and that it is in the best interests of both the public and operators to minimize impacts to the landscape.

“Continuous improvement is at the core of the natural gas industry,” said Dave Spigelmyer, vice president of Chesapeake Energy and MSC chairman. “At the direction of our board of directors, the coalition’s staff and committee leadership set out to develop a set of recommended practices that make sense both operationally and from an environmental standpoint. These content-rich guidance documents represent a level of detail and transparency derived from many sources which will be updated and refined as development continues.”

The standardization of best practices in the region comes at a time when industry is attempting to convince the public and state and federal government officials that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) can be done safely and responsibly. Industry is also awaiting word from the state of New York, which has been weighing whether to allow high-volume fracking for four years (see Daily GPI, July 28, 2008).

While drilling activity in the Marcellus Shale is down 5% from the same period last month, the 147 oil and gas rigs in operation for the week ending April 27 marks a 3% increase over the 143 rigs that were operating during the same week one year ago, according to NGI‘s Shale Daily Unconventional Rig Count.

Developed by the MSC’s Land Affairs Committee in consultation with third party stakeholder groups, the RP report lays out in detail 11 steps that form a repeatable process that MSC upstream exploration and production companies and midstream gathering and gas processing companies can follow to minimize surface and environmental impacts through site planning and development. The 11 steps are:

“This site planning, development and restoration RP is the culmination of countless hours of work by our land affairs committee to develop a sound document that would be useful not only to operators, but also landowners and other organizations,” said MSC President Kathryn Z. Klaber. “From site identification, to safety, communications, landowner engagement and eventual reclamation, this guidance document is the first of many that the coalition will release in the coming months — all of which are designed to increase awareness and share ideas and practices that work while continuing to raise the bar on responsible natural gas development across the region.”

Through the work of its nearly two dozen standing committees, MSC said the RPs to be released in the coming months will provide general guidance on topics ranging from well construction to site restoration, air quality and water management.

“The MSC’s RPs will assist industry professionals operating in the Appalachian basin in improving their effectiveness in all stages of responsible natural gas exploration and production,” the report said.