Behind the scenes of WNEP’s cold weather story

With the extreme weather conditions impacting our region, WNEP’s Jon Myers recently spoke with representatives of Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation about the company’s procedures for dealing with the cold weather. The two minute segment aired Thursday, January 23rd on the 5 o’clock news, providing a quick glimpse into Cabot’s operations in the severe cold. Here is a recap of the interviews and some of the discussion that didn’t make it into the final segment.

Cabot’s preparation for this extreme, cold weather begins long before the winter months. Our employees participate in monthly safety meetings run by our environmental, health and safety department. The meetings usually focus on a topic related to the current weather conditions or in preparation for expected weather. Leading up to the recent extreme weather conditions, Cabot’s employees have already covered frost bite, hypothermia, dehydration, proper nutrition and rest.

As far as equipping our employees, Cabot provides appropriate personal protective equipment or PPE year round. In the summer months this includes fire resistant (FR) clothing pants and shirts as well as work boots with steel covering the toes for added protection. As the seasons change, light jackets and vests (both FR) are made available in the fall and when cold temperature becomes more of an issue, heavy jackets and coveralls (both FR) are issued as well as hats, beanies and other head gear too. Additional equipment like boot clip-ons, which make walking in the snowy/icy conditions more surefooted are also available.

Information and preparedness remain at the forefront of a safe working environment. The environmental health and safety department continues to stay in contact with all employees during the winter weather months. With the recent Polar Vortex weather in particular, an email was circulated to every employee in the field before each shift:

Good morning and I hope you all had an amazing holiday season. Our start to 2014 will be met with a severe winter storm with snow accumulations of 5-9+ inches and wind chills as low as negative 15-25 degrees. Road conditions will be hazardous with blowing snow and limited visibility, with that said please ensure that if you must be on the road, slow down, increase your following distance, utilize your four wheel drive option, and check your windshield wipers. With wind chills around the negative 20 degree mark, frostbite and hypothermia can set in very quickly. If you must be out in this type of environment, ensure you are well rested, hydrated, dress in layers, and limit time spend out in the elements. Do not ignore shivering, as this is the body’s first sign of hypothermia and if the symptoms persist please return to your vehicle or warm area to recover.

The timing of this storm will continue for the next 24 hours and tomorrow will be the coldest with the severe wind chills. Please prepare yourself and your equipment now to prevent any incidents.

The email also included a detailed weather predication from the Weather Channel’s forecast.

, Drilling Superintend

The drilling operation will continue during the extreme cold weather as long as it is can be done safely. To date, we have not had to stop drilling operations at any of our locations here in Susquehanna County because of the weather. The drilling rigs are designed to operate in the harshest weather conditions including heavy rain, high winds, heat and of course extreme cold.

In preparation for the winter weather, wind guards are installed around the rig’s floor. These metal walls create a barrier for snow and wind, especially the wind, while rig hands are working. The drilling rigs are also equipped with a boiler, which systematically moves heat throughout the rig to keep pipes from freezing. The boiler will also push heat to areas where rig hands will be working, similar to the radiant heat found in homes.

For the guys on the rig, it’s about getting into a rhythm after that initial cold hits. Most of the guys are use to this weather being from around here or working up here for a few years now.

, Completion Foreman

The completions operation relies heavily on water, which is most vulnerable to harsh winter weather. To manage the water and keep it from freezing Cabot relies on a number of different mitigation techniques, everything from heaters to continuously moving the water.

Growing up in this area you’ve experienced household water pipes bursting during the winter. A simple thing like leaving the faucet on could keep your pipes from freezing. The same principal applies here just on a bigger scale.

It’s a great feeling to see the hard work going into developing this resource flowing down to the Wilkes Barre now. It’s exciting for this area.

, President GasSearch Drilling Services

GasSearch Drilling Services (GDS) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cabot. It provides construction and support services to the company. Over 200 employees are employed by the company. The weather makes it tougher to operate but not impossible. The equipment does well in the cold, it’s the fueling that’s most concerning. Diesel will gel up in the extreme cold so we have to manage the fuel to keep the operations running. GDS employees are equipped with all of the necessary equipment they need to operate safely in the harshest of weather conditions.

Growing up here, we use to snowmobile and ski when school was canceled.  This weather is nothing new to us. Just need to appreciate it, wear the right equipment and stay warm.

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Bill desRosiers

Raised in Highland Falls, New York, William desRosiers learned about responsible resource development, firsthand, as a part of his family's mining business. William received his B.S. in Management, B.A.in History and MBA from Misericordia University. He currently serves in External Affairs for Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation. His primary responsibilities include strengthening media relationships, managing company-run fundraising programs, building better community relations and representing Cabot every chance he has.

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