New Report: Fracking Means 70 Percent Reduction in Land Footprint
A new report released this week by the Western Energy Alliance and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming highlights how technological advances in drilling have substantially reduced the environmental impact of oil and gas operations in the West. Titled “Gaining Ground,” the report explains how new drilling techniques used by oil and gas companies are “minimizing impacts on species and the landscapes they depend upon.”
According to the report, “modern oil and natural gas operations result in a nearly 70% reduction in disturbance”. Whereas operations previously relied on individual vertical well pads, technological advances allow for cost-effective use of directional and horizontal drilling techniques. Companies are now able to get the same amount of coverage from a single horizontal well pad as they could from 8-16 separate vertical well pads. In Wyoming, “between 2006 and 2012 vertical well permits declined 65% while horizontal and directional permits increased by 66% and 1,337% respectively.” In addition to reducing environmental impact, these techniques are “increasing the rate of recovery of oil and natural gas from each well.” Of course, this report is right in line with what Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said:
“By using directional drilling and fracking, we have an opportunity to have a softer footprint on the land.”
The report goes on to explain how these technological improvements are allowing ever greater cooperation between oil and gas companies and conservation groups. As active members of the Sage-Grouse Implementation Team in Wyoming, companies are working alongside state agencies and conservation groups to set well pad-density standards and reduce the disturbance of Sage-Grouse habitats. The oil and gas industry is also using new drilling practices to limit the impact on big game migration corridors in the West. It was found that at density levels of five to seven well pads per square mile, changes in big game migratory behavior occurred. By using horizontal development, companies are using “as few as one or two well pads per square mile.”
The new report goes on to note that “employees live, work, and recreate locally and share the same conservation values as other citizens.” In other words, the industry has a shared interest in preserving local habitats and reducing surface disturbance to the greatest possible extent, which is why oil and gas companies in the West have played a role in setting drilling standards. Many industry members also contribute by “helping to fund and develop the science that is guiding policy,” laying the groundwork for cooperation that will allow the interests of wildlife conservation and the oil and gas industry to coexist, and thrive, for years to come.