What’s it doing to the earth?

The U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Fossil Energy released a study identifying the environmental benefits of advanced gas exploration and production.  The 2012 study examined the development lifecycle – from site development through site reclamation.  This is what they had to say:

The US oil and gas industry has integrated an environmental ethic into its business culture and operations. The industry has come to recognize that high environmental standards and responsible development are good business, and it is demonstrating its commitment to protecting the environment in research and technology investments, policies and practices, and participation in a host of voluntary environmental protection programs.”

“From coast to coast innovative E&P approaches are making a difference to the environment. With advanced technologies, the oil and gas industry can pinpoint resources more accurately, extract them more efficiently and with less surface disturbance, minimize associated wastes, and, ultimately, restore sites to original or better condition. Most of these advances have been pioneered in the United States, but many are now also providing benefits around the globe.”

Here are some additional excerpts from the study:

  • FEWER WELLS TO ADD SAME LEVEL OF RESERVES: If technology had not advanced since 1985, four domestic wells would have to be drilled today to maintain the production levels achieved by two wells in 1985. But, in fact, technology advances have boosted productivity so successfully that 1985-level production can be achieved today with only one well.
  • LOWER DRILLING WASTE VOLUMES:  Volumes of drilling muds and drill cuttings per barrel of new oil reserves have steadily declined thanks to improvements in drilling efficiency.
  • LOWER PRODUCED WATER VOLUMES: Emerging downhole separation technology has the potential to dramatically reduce volumes of produced water, which is the largest waste stream associated with oil and gas production.
  • SMALLER FOOTPRINTS: Using modular drilling rigs and slim hole drilling, operators can develop the same volume of resources with a rig up to 75 percent smaller and lighter than a standard rig, reducing impacts  on surface environments.
  • PROTECTION OF SENSITIVE ENVIRONMENTS: Directional drilling,  slim hole rigs, and other advances enable production of valuable oil and gas resources with less disturbance to wetlands and other sensitive environments.
  • REDUCED GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS: Through the EPAs voluntary Natural Gas STAR program, the gas industrys use of innovative best management practices has reduced methane emissions by nearly 55 billion cubic feet since 1991, well exceeding the annual goals set by the Climate Change Action Plan. The natural gas production sector alone has accounted for two-thirds of this reduction.
  • ENHANCED WORKER SAFETY: Job-related injuries and Illnesses in oil exploration and production are well below the rates in the U.S. manufacturing sector. Advanced drilling, completion, and production technologies have contributed to steady improvements in worker safety, by decreasing workers time on site and enhancing wellbore control.