At SWN, we treat land with respect and reduce our operational footprint whenever we can. We aim to minimize surface impacts, prevent spills, reduce waste and protect biodiversity. In addition, we use LEED building standards for our office buildings.

Surface Impacts

We minimize our land-based footprint by drilling multiple wells on each gravel well pad (up to 10 wells per pad), where technically feasible. When the time comes to close the final well on a pad, we restore the location to its original condition, unless the landowner requests that the pad be left in place. Because most of our wells will produce for decades to come, our well closures at present are mostly older conventional wells that have ceased producing and exploratory wells that prove unsuccessful. We employ best practices that guide the development and ultimate closure of our well pad sites and ensure we comply with applicable regulations.

Protecting Cultural Resources

We are mindful of protecting important cultural and archeological sites in our operations. A SWN representative serves on the board of Leaders in Energy and Preservation (LEAP), a coalition of energy companies and historic preservation experts that aims to avoid or mitigate impacts to archeological and historic sites of importance. In particular, LEAP promotes best practices in the planning of energy projects to ensure responsible screening for heritage sites. We consider such screenings to be an important part of operating as a responsible energy producer.

Preventing Spills

We handle a variety of liquids in our operations, including natural gas liquids, fracturing fluid, produced water, recycled water and condensate. Our operational practices help ensure these liquids stay off the ground and out of waterways. We have spill prevention countermeasure and control plans and spill response plans in place throughout our operations, and we regularly conduct spill response drills.

In all of our regions, catch basins under drilling rigs contain any fluid that may fall, and the base area around each rig is covered with a heavy polyethylene liner. Shutoff valves on rigs enable us to immediately stop any leak or rupture. We keep records of every spill – even those captured by secondary containment – and record near hits, so we can learn from those events and put preventative measures in place.

SWN defines, classifies and tracks Tier 1 and Tier 2 spills, portions of which are included as performance measures affecting our employees’ compensation and bonuses.

Approximately 97 percent of our 2017 spills volume of 337 barrels was related to three produced water spills in Arkansas that were just off location and had very minimal environmental impact. We implemented spill response and containment efforts as soon as the spills were detected. No surface water or groundwater was impacted, and all affected soils were remediated.

Volume of Tier 1 and Tier 2 spills1

barrels (bbl)

Year Value - barrels (bbl)
2015 1,251
2016 5
2017 337

Solid Waste

SWN’s primary waste stream is the mixture of rock cuttings and oil-based drilling mud that comes out of a well as it is being drilled. We have a companywide waste management policy and individual waste management plans for each operating region. We review the policy and plans annually, to ensure we stay aligned with any changes in state or local regulations. We also provide waste management and other waste-related training for all relevant personnel.

Our operations use closed-loop systems to manage drilling mud.

That is, all cuttings and associated drilling fluids are captured and then separated. After separation, the liquid mud is reused for drilling and the solids are removed from the well pad in covered, lined trucks. This material is further processed and then either reused as road base or beneficial fill or disposed of in landfills. We ensure that each landfill meets state regulatory standards and SWN standards for this type of waste. Before choosing a landfill, our Health, Safety and Environment team conducts a rigorous audit, as well as periodic follow-up audits.

Naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM) can occur in very small concentrations in some rock formations. In our operations, NORM has occasionally been found in scale and sludge as barium sulfate, deposited in production tubulars and surface equipment, as well as in gas form. Our NORM management program specifies procedures for detecting, managing and disposing of NORM-affected materials. All remediation or decommissioning of NORM waste is conducted by a third-party company licensed for that purpose. See the Health and Safety section for more on how we protect our employees from NORM.

Protecting Biodiversity

In and around SWN facilities, we take care to protect ecosystems, plants and animals – especially species listed as threatened or endangered.

SWN’s assets overlap with the habitat of several bat species, including three listed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as endangered or threatened. In Appalachia, we joined with nine other companies to develop a multi-state habitat conservation plan (HCP) to protect these species. The HCP, if approved by the FWS, would provide an avenue for incidental take in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, via the provision of preapproved mitigation and conservation measures.

Several of the conservation efforts we’ve undertaken as part of our ECH2O® project have had the effect of restoring habitat for threatened or endangered species. In Arkansas, for example, improvement of the Archey Fork River and the floodplains along the Upper Little Red River have helped restore habitat for the yellowcheek darter, a fish listed by the FWS as endangered.


SWN’s LEED-certified HQ building’s Energy Star Rating, significantly better than the design expected rating of 86
  1. A Tier 1 spill is an unintentional release of a regulated or prohibited substance impacting a state/federal jurisdictional water body, an unintentional release of a regulated substance at or above its federal reportable quantity, or an unintentional air impact at or above a state/federal reporting threshold. A Tier 2 spill is an unintentional release of a regulated or prohibited substance impacting land off location or an unintentional air impact below a state/federal reporting threshold, to include only natural gas releases of 235 thousand cubic feet (Mcf) or more.