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Statoil hosts town meeting in Tyler County

By Staff | Nov 19, 2014

Andy Winkle, vice president of Statoil’s on shore operations, met with interested parties and residents of Tyler County on Thursday at Tyler Consolidated High School.

Statoil is an international energy company with operations in 37 countries. Winkle introduced himself to the crowd by saying he is originally from England, but now resides in Houston. He said he has 37 years in the industry, so he brings a lot of experience. He said he left the UK as soon as he graduated as a geologist and has been traveling around the world ever since. Winkle has lived in eight different countries and now travels throughout the United States, which he has called home since 2007.

Winkle said Statoil has 40 years of experience from oil and gas production on the Norwegian continental shelf and is committed to accommodating the world’s energy needs in a responsible manner. Statoil is headquartered in Norway with approximately 21,000 employees worldwide and is listed on the New York and Oslo stock exchanges.

Also speaking Thursday was Statoil’s manager of health and safety, Steve Tink. He said they work to conserve and protect water sources by using water responsibly and are also committed to land stewardship and air quality.

Statoil’s representatives said they strive to earn trust in the communities where they operate because each community is unique and it is their responsibility to understand local characteristics. They want to build enduring relationships with people in these communities based on trust, openness, and sound operations by openly sharing information about their operations, drilling practices, and the chemicals used during hydraulic fracturing, while also complying with local, state, and federal regulations.

“Statoil is about the size of Conoco Phillips,” said Winkle said. “We produce about two million barrels of oil and gas a day, so we are a fairly sizable company.”

But Thursday’s focus was on their plans and operations in Tyler County. “One of the things we focus on is local development, so a lot of the things we will do here is work directly with you, while developing the industry and hiring local people because we find that developing the people in the area also gives you a better place to work,” said Winkle. We have about 90,000 acres of oil and gas in Wetzel and Tyler counties in West Virginia and Monroe County in Ohio. Those are the areas we are developing now and we will continue to grow. We’re here for the long term.”

Winkle said they are also committed to developing their shale resources in a safe, responsible and open manner. He stressed the company’s desire to work with the people of Tyler and Wetzel counties, adding that they always put the health and safety of people first. He said they want to be good neighbors and want to earn the people’s trust by obtaining all government permits and abiding by the rules.

Tom Lutz, operation manager for their Marcellus operations, spoke about the drilling and production cycle. He said the production cycle is four staged.

-Stage 1 is site selection and preparation which takes between 35-50 days, Statoil selects and designs development sites to minimize environmental impacts and local disturbances. Once the land is selected and cleared, they construct a well pad on the site; once the well pad is complete, a drilling rig is set up. They drill multiple wells from each pad, which reduces surface impact, minimizing effects on the environment.

-Stage 2 is drilling and fracturing, which takes 14-40 days. It requires multiple permits and is highly regulated. These permits can cover aspects such as well depth, potential impacts of well site construction, and measures to protect freshwater.

-Stage 3 is production and marketing, which takes 20-40 years. When the drilling and well completion steps are finished, all drilling equipment is removed. Pipelines are normally installed for the transportation of water to and from the site, as well as the produced oil and gas. In some areas, trucks or trains may be used to transport the resources to market.

-Stage 4 is plugging and reclamation. It takes seven to 20 days. When a well no longer produces oil or gas, the well is safely plugged and the location is restored.

Lutz said water used in oil and gas production is sourced from rivers, creeks, and lakes and is done in compliance with regulations and permits. The amount of water used during hydraulic fracturing can be as high as five million gallons per well. Statoil says they conduct baseline assessments to evaluate the quality of the groundwater to ensure that their activities don’t negatively affect the freshwater resources in the area.

Water is the main component of fracturing fluid; it is pumped into the well at high pressure to fracture the rock. The fracturing fluid is 99.5 percent water and proppant (sand or ceramic pellets), and 0.5 percent chemical additives.

“We strive to be good neighbors by building enduring relationships with the local communities where we operate through safe and sound operations,” said Lutz. They work toward that by holding townhall meetings in and around where they operate, supporting community needs and reducing safety concerns by minimizing public nuisance, introducing speed limits, and escorting our contractor trucks on public roads. “We also establish local offices and, where possible, provide local employment and contracting opportunities,” added Lutz.

Deena Glover, assistant chief of operations of the Middlebourne EMS, was the first to speak from the audience. She directed her question to Lutz, asking him how many people he anticipated they would be bringing into the area? She was told on any given day there would be 15 employees, 20 consultants, and 150 to 200 contractors. She said, “So around 150 to 200 people in or around Tyler County.”

“That’s split between Wetzel, Tyler, and Monroe counties, so about half for Tyler County,” said Winkle.

“Okay, half of that, so how are we anticipating covering that with one emergency ambulance service in this county right now?,” asked Glover.

Lutz said that was an excellent question that Statoil’s safety and environmentalist have to answer and should be covering that before they bring their drilling rigs into the area. “Our safety people will sit down with your county emergency responders and coordinators and talk,” promised Lutz. He said in case they have an incident where the fire departments were responding, they must make sure they understand where the pad is, what the activity is, the layout of the pad, the volumes of chemicals, volumes of fuel they have, any injuries, if they will evacuate, if there a space to land a helicopter, needed medicine, etc.

“We’ve done all of this in the past,” said Glover. “Many well sites have blown up, we’ve had fires, people burned-not with your company, but with other companies. We just dealt with it by ourselves. You’re talking about a volunteer fire department, where everybody works. A lot of days we don’t have anyone going out responding-maybe one or two. And our ambulance service is basically all volunteer as well, with under 10 people running the county. I’m really concerned because I don’t think we can cover the volume of people you have coming in here.”

Winkle reiterated that it was absolutely something they need to sit down and talk about. “We have already told Tom (Cooper), the emergency response manager, that we will be attending his monthly meetings to see how we can get all problems solved,” noted Winkle.

“Cooper is over emergencies in the county, but he doesn’t have anything to do with our service,” replied Glover. “He’s over OEM (office of emergency management), but I’m talking about the ambulance service.”

Once again Winkle said they could sit down and talk about the matter

Alfred Tuttle, introduced himself as a Tyler County resident. He said, “As you know, this area was extensively developed in the 1890’s early 1900’s. There were numerous wells drilled all over the place and it’s basically swiss cheese, and my concern is with the current drilling. My question to you is what technology do you have available to detect and take care of any of these old wells, which might provide pathways for ground water contamination or loss of methane or other contaminants that might be in the fracking fluid? We have already had some of the old wells come back to life with the pressurization that has occurred due to fracturing. We have also had some of the old wells that suddenly eject out of the ground. So my main concern is this swiss cheese that you’re going to be drilling through.

Lutz said Statoil shares that concern; that is part of their study. “Before we drill or locate wells or locate pads there is an exhaustive research on where wells might be in the area,” said Lutz. “We locate those and evaluate our records to determine if they are properly abandoned. If they haven’t been, we’ll find out who the owners are and if we can’t locate the previous owners we will take responsibility for it and go into a proper abandonment ourselves before we bring the fracturing operation to the area. The last thing we want is the situation you described.”

Tuttle then said many of these old wells are unknown or undocumented. “I want to know if you have technology available to detect these wells,” he asked.

Lutz said he wasn’t aware of any and all they can do is monitor. If they notice something during the operation that is caused by their activity, they are committed to controlling it, containing it, and cleaning it up.

William Nash asked how he can know that a driller is stopping at the Marcellus and not going into the Utica formation. Winkle said they have to file a plan with the state and that plan indicates the formation in which they are going to drill.

“It shows the estimated depth, the lateral length of the well, and how far we are going horizontal, and then we have to give that information to the state to show we are actually in the formation,” said Winkle.

Nash then asked Wrinkle if he shares that information with the landowners. Wrinkle said, “We can, but the information we get from the well itself goes to the state and becomes public knowledge, he thinks in West Virginia, after six months.”

“Six months?” asked Nash. “Well what will Statoil do for me if you ruin my water?” Wrinkle said they have no intention of ruining people’s water.

“I understand that, but that doesn’t say it doesn’t happen!” replied Nash.

“That is correct, but we are committed to making everything correct,” said Winkle. “We recognize we are working in your area. We recognize that people have surface water and people have water problems. That’s why we check the water before and why we check it afterwards.”

Nash said he would also be having his water tested by the state.

Chris Hoke continued the well water issue. “A lot of us are rural; we have wells. So what do you need from us? What documentation would you need to accept responsibility that my well is contaminated by your activity? And how would you correct the situation when my well is contaminated? How long will you take responsibility?” she asked. “Most of us are rural and our livelihoods depend on our water.

“And I’m sorry, but like Bill said, don’t say that the water’s not contaminated by fracking. It has been and cases have been reported. So what will you do to protect my well and when it’s contaminated what will you do and for how long?”

“We will take care of any situation that indicates water has been contaminated,” said Winkle. “I must say though, we have never done that and our intention is not to do that. So as an operator, we have never had that problem, but we will take care of any problems that occur, but it is highly unlikely that they do.”

Glover spoke again and said, “I don’t know about your company, but I know about other companies saying we do not contaminate water, because when there have been cases brought up in court. They get a gag order. They will pay the families to take care of their health issues, so that the companies can continue to say they don’t contaminate water.”

She said, “Again I don’t know about your company, but I have read stories of other ones, companies say they never contaminate water and they certainly have, but people are paid off, so they can’t talk.” She was then asked if she would end the discussion because another man wanted to talk.

Greg Goodfellow, another resident of Tyler County, said, “West Virginia’s about to enter into it’s fifth boom, timber, coal, oil, gas, and oil and gas part II. We’ve been told ever since we’ve been a state, we’re going to take care of you-and as some of these folks are saying, we’re not slamming your company, not at all-but West Virginia, for some reason, doesn’t seem to benefit from these booms. We have companies coming in and they take what they want they wave bye, bye see ya later.”

“We’ve been talking to the Tyler County Commissioners and they say, ‘We don’t see any money,'” said Goodfellow. We’ve had oil and gas people here for years and there are more millionaires here than ever before. Marshall County is swimming in it right now and over across the river in Ohio, it’s coming on. My question is, when do we see it in this county? Is it 2016? 2018? 2020? When do we see money coming into this county? So we can better fund our emergency services. So we’re not running on a Band-Aid. So we’re not relying on volunteers.

“My simple question is, When does the Tyler County Commission see appreciable money coming in?”

But to give you an idea as to when that income is coming in, said Winkle, that income is dependent upon the level of activity and that level of activity is dependent upon gas prices, oil prices, and that activity is dependent upon, if it successful to drill in Tyler County and if it possible to work in Tyler County.

He said, “I would say to you as a group, we have to work together to overcome these things. We can’t control price; price is in the market. What we can control is how we work with you, how efficient we are, how we take care, how we improve the services that are required.”

“Statoil has been in the Marcellus now for six years,” said Winkle. “We’ve spent and invested $220 million on roads in the Marcellus since we came here. That’s a substantial amount.” He said they recognize the problem; they need to bring in the equipment and provide the service.

“It’s not going to appear on day one, it takes time to bring this in,” explained Winkle. “Tyler County is a new area of development and it takes time for things to happen. So when it’s proven that wells come on stream, taxes get paid, and people start to benefit. Certain things have to be put in place for that to happen. I can’t give you a date, it depends on how successful it is to produce in these formations.”

Glover said she wanted to direct a comment to the people of Tyler County because a lot of people don’t remember her many years ago, but she was raised in Tyler County-near the Tyler-Doddridge County line. She said, they drilled oil and gas (Exxon was the company at the time) around our farm in a circle. “My dad had worked very hard at Weirton Steel to have their farm to retire upon,” said Glover.

She said the oil and gas drilling got into their water supply, her dad became ill, and they ended up losing their farm. She said, “I’ll tell you right now we were given $50,000 for our farm to leave, by Exxon.” Glover was given $4,000 for her injuries after she developed asthma. She said her brother got cancer and her sister, who is only 44, has had melanoma 10 times and she was given $4-5,000.

“We lost our farm and moved to Middlebourne,” continued Glover. “I had a trailer and I had just bought the brand new trailer and we all moved to Middlebourne, with $50,000. Four years later my dad passed away; he had a cancer of the bladder which is generally a type of cancer only children get, five weeks later he was gone. I am not blaming shale, I’m not pointing fingers at you guys, absolutely not.”

Winkle responded, “We go above and beyond, we’re not here to cause damage, we’re here to live with you. You will find that things will improve. Don’t paint us with the same brush (as the other companies). We are here to answer questions and work together.”.