The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Investing in Environmentally Safe and Responsible Development

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted November 11, 2013

The oil and natural gas industry supports safe and responsible energy development of America’s shale reserves. Three recent news reports underscore the time, innovation and energy various companies are investing in reducing surface impacts while protecting water supplies and air quality.

emissionsThe Greeley (CO) Tribune reports on environmentally friendly measures companies are using in energy-rich Weld County. These include:

  • Recycling water – Water produced during hydraulic fracturing is being captured and recycled, helping reduce water needs for future fracking jobs.
  • Water supply – Companies are piping water into sites where hydraulic fracturing is being used to reduce the need for water supplied by trucks, also reducing traffic.
  • Pipelined product – Product is being piped directly to processing plants, avoiding tank storage.
  • Reduced flaring – Vapor recovery units are coming online to prevent seepage into the air, reducing the need to flare excess gases.
  • Fracking fluids – The use of harsher chemicals in the fluids used to fracture rock is being reduced. One operator told the paper a lot of fracking fluid is nothing more than soapy water.
  • Fleets – Company vehicles are being converted to run on natural gas, sometimes gas coming right off the wellhead.
  • Safety mindset – Operators are focused on building a safety-first approach in their employees.
  • Community engagement – Operators are listening to the concerns of residents in areas neighboring drilling and acting, employing sound and light barriers and additional landscaping.

West Greeley resident Glennis Hefton told the newspaper an oil and natural gas production facility is located across the street from their upscale home. The company planted trees around the facility and generally helped improve the neighborhood’s look:

"We had a homeowners association meeting and talked about it. The company addressed our concerns. They were explicit in what they would do. I really wasn't that concerned. … We didn’t have any trees to begin with. … It's not out of sight, out of mind. We're on our back deck a lot" and see the oil and gas facility. "It's not an eyesore."

Ed Holloway, CEO of Synergy Resources, an oil and natural gas exploration company, told the newspaper that environmental consciousness among operators has increased dramatically:

"I can't think of any company not wanting to be environmentally sensitive. … The oil industry really in the last 10 years accelerated that improvement and it is fun to watch. It's very encouraging. Minds have changed as to how we practice, how we're good neighbors in the field."

Dan Kelly, Noble Energy operations chief, told the newspaper that industry welcomes a working relationship with state regulators and that being environmentally proactive is sound from a business standpoint:

"We want to collaborate with regulators. We don't look at regulation as this negative thing. We look at regulation as something that's very important, and we want to be a real steward of the environment. … We'll reduce land usage over time, reduce emissions – that’s air emissions from the wells themselves, that's from trucks that run up and down the highway by taking them off road. We'll capture our flash gas, which we'll monetize. We'll get more liquids out of the system. There's just tremendous benefits to establishing this infrastructure."

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle and Associated Press also have articles detailing efforts by companies to focus on environmental good practices.

The Chronicle zeroes in on efforts in the Eagle Ford Shale play in South Texas. Marathon Oil reports having reduced the amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing in 2012 and is continuing to build midstream infrastructure that delivers about 60 percent of its production by pipeline, reducing truck traffic. Marathon’s Clarence P. Cazalot Jr. told the newspaper:

"Our local operating teams are responsible for implementing programs to fulfill the commitments, including setting measurable goals to drive improvement. We believe this is the best way to have a positive impact in our communities."

The Chronicle reports that last year ConocoPhillips reduced or prevented greenhouse gas emissions from select operations by approximately 1 million metric tons through numerous energy and process efficiency projects, including the use of closed-loop natural gas-handling systems for well completion and service, compressor and natural gas plant optimization, flare reduction and small-scale use of solar energy for remote power. The newspaper quotes Ryan Lance, the company’s chairman and CEO:

"ConocoPhillips is committed to protecting the environment.We implement high environmental standards to ensure that our actions today will not only provide the energy needed ... but also secure a stable and healthy environment."

AP reports on efforts to cut water demand for fracking in Texas:

Many companies, each using slightly different technology and methods, are offering ways of reusing that water. Some, like Schlosberg's Water Rescue Services, statically charge the water to allow particles of waste to separate and fall to the bottom. Those solids are taken to a landfill, leaving more than 95 percent of the water clean enough to be reused for fracking. Other operators, such as Walton, Ky.-based Pure Stream, offer two technologies — one that cleans water so it can be reused in the oil patch and another more expensive system that renders it clean enough to be dumped into rivers and lakes or used in agriculture.

Just a few examples of the way oil and natural gas companies are safely and responsibly developing the energy we need for transportation, heating and cooking in our homes and a variety of other uses that make modern life possible. Industry operating practices are designed – and continually updated – to foster responsible development that earns community trust.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.