The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) last Thursday amended permits for two Marcellus Shale gas wells being erected in Morgantown to include closed-loop drilling systems, but it has no plans at this time to make the systems a statewide requirement.

DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco told NGI’s Shale Daily that closed-loop drilling processes would be implemented for both the air-drilled and fluid-drilled portions of wells owned by Northeast Natural Energy LLC (NNE). The wells are in the Morgantown Industrial Park.

“It’s not a requirement of all of our permits, but under certain conditions it might be something we propose to a company,” Cosco said. “We’ve found that there are a lot of people in the industry and a lot of companies that are already going this route on their own.”

Cosco said Charleston, WV-based NNE first received permits for the wells in March. She said public interest and concerns by the Morgantown Utility Board over the wells’ proximity to municipal water supplies reached a crescendo in early May. Cosco added that DEP Secretary Randy Huffman then encouraged NNE and the utility board to sit down for discussions.

“There was no incident,” Cosco said. “The concerns by the public and the utility board were regarding the protective measures that were in place. They wanted to protect their waterways. Huffman recommended that the company and the utility board talk about them.”

Asked if the DEP planned on making closed-loop systems a statewide requirement, Cosco said, “Not at this time, but after this particular circumstance it is something that we will probably consider in the future. But whether we seek legislation to make that a requirement, I don’t know.”

NNE officials did not return calls seeking comment.

The state of West Virginia received 622 new oil and gas Marcellus drilling permit applications within the last year, according to the DEP. Consol Energy led all companies by seeking 110 permits, followed by Chesapeake Energy with 82 and EQT Production with 74. Northeast Natural Energy was further down the list with four permit requests.