Guest Columns

Comprehensive and modernized regulatory frameworks counter concerns about fracking

GUEST COLUMNIST

The state of Colorado is like nowhere else in the world. Coloradans feel strongly about our environment, community, and economic growth. It’s personal to us. So when we hear concerns about hydraulic fracturing — a tightly regulated technology used to enhance oil and natural gas development — in our state, we understand.

The citizens of Longmont recently voted to ban hydraulic fracturing in their town, and many voters may have done so in response to misinformation. At Noble Energy, it is important to us that the public understands the safety of our operations and the measures we take to safeguard our communities and environment — while delivering the domestic energy crucial to our way of life.

Through a combination of recent advances in horizontal drilling technology, we are able to safely and responsibly produce oil and natural gas resources that were previously inaccessible. This development supports thousands of jobs in the state and is bringing about much-needed growth during these challenging economic times. Noble Energy and our more than 800 Colorado-based employees are proud to be partners in our state’s energy development. Our company plans to invest almost $10 billion over the next five years to develop resources in the DJ Basin.

As a citizen of Colorado, I am proud to say that our state has one of the most comprehensive and modernized regulatory frameworks in the country to ensure we produce these resources safely and responsibly. At the same time, Noble Energy recently released its first sustainability report, which highlights the efforts we continue to take to ensure the environment and the communities where we operate are kept safe.

Concerns have been raised about the additives used in fracturing fluids reaching ground and surface water supplies. To put this in perspective, groundwater is located a few hundred feet from the land’s surface and our wells are about 7,000 feet deep. Before we drill and complete a well, we evaluate the geology below the surface and our engineers design a well-construction plan that includes inserting multiple layers of steel casing and cement into the full length of the well to prevent gas migration and protect drinking water. Before and after drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations, we conduct baseline sampling to monitor water quality.

With increasing demand for energy and water, we have developed and implemented a comprehensive water management program that enables us to recycle or reuse water. It’s important to note that most of the water we use initially comes from non-municipal sources that are either unsuitable for drinking purposes or buried deep below existing groundwater aquifers. By the end of 2013, we anticipate 100 percent of water used in our operations will either be recycled or sourced from these non-municipal aquifers. According to a joint report by three state agencies, the amount of water used in hydraulic fracturing amounts to 0.08 percent of total water use in Colorado.

Further, we have developed water infrastructure and storage that will result in a reduction of 58 million truck miles and 108,000 tons of carbon dioxide over the next five years — that’s the equivalent of removing 25,000 cars from the road. On the air quality front, we have also invested $5 million in the Weld County Smart Energy Plan to convert school bus fleets to run on compressed natural gas. This conversion will result in potential savings of thousands of dollars per year in fuel costs and will help improve air quality.

Through the responsible measures we take to design our wells, minimize our impact on water supplies and improve Colorado’s air quality, we hope you understand that we care. We are accountable to our employees, to the stakeholders we do business with every day, to the consumers of oil and natural gas that powers America and — above all — to the citizens of Colorado. It is a privilege to operate here, and we take tremendous pride in the way we do business.

The oil and natural gas industry, utilizing hydraulic fracturing, can continue to safely and responsibly provide energy and economic growth to our great state — while protecting the environment, health and safety of our employees and communities. We’re committed to delivering on that promise each and every day. We thank you for working with us. And we look forward to continuing to work with you.

Ted D. Brown, based in Denver, is Senior Vice President, Northern Region for Noble Energy.