Petroleum Engineers Play an Important Role in Sustainability 0

Offshore, oil, gas, drilling

Some people balk at the idea that oil and gas has a role to play in a sustainable future, but the reality on the ground suggests otherwise.

“Supplying energy for the world is a monumental task. There continue to be improvements in renewable energy sources; however, reasonable forecasts of growth in renewables suggest fossil fuels will remain the primary source of the world’s energy for decades to come,” Nathan Meehan, president of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, wrote in an article published by SPE in March 2016.

Even with the increasing adoption of renewable energy resources, Meehan notes that fossil fuels still play an important role in meeting today’s energy needs and using them prudently is the best way to make sure that our generation does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The drive toward renewables is evident in the US where last year nearly half of utility-scale capacity additions on the power grid came from renewable sources like solar and wind, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

But even with the recent gains, renewables only account for a minority of total US power production and their intermittent nature creates the need for energy storage or backup generation that can be brought online quickly – like natural gas fired power plants – to stabilize the grid. The bulk of heavy lifting in the US power generation sector is still done by natural gas (34%), coal (30%) and nuclear (20%), according to EIA data.

This data suggests that fossil fuels will still be needed for decades to come in the power generation sector, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. A myriad of other industries count on energy and products derived from oil and natural gas.

Considering this, SPE takes seriously the need to extract these resources sustainably.

Though many people may not realize it, there are many things that petroleum engineers can do to help ensure that oil and gas is part of a sustainable energy solution. Meehan says these areas include:

  • Minimizing methane emissions
  • Reducing or eliminating flaring
  • Supporting energy efficiency and conservation
  • Ensuring wellbore integrity
  • Reducing the surface footprint of wells
  • Eliminating spills
  • Optimizing field development and management

SPE offers its members opportunities to train, share knowledge and advance practices to further these goals.

SPE’s efforts supplement work being done by a number of producers, several of which voluntarily release sustainability reports that highlight their unique measures – like Statoil, Shell, and Hess. To learn more about what petroleum engineers can do, visit SPE’s website or read Meehan’s full article on the subject here.

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Recommended Lighting Practices Collaboration 0

FORT DAVIS, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin’s McDonald Observatory has collaborated with the Permian Basin Petroleum Association (PBPA) and the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) to reduce light shining into the sky from drilling rigs and related activities in West Texas. The excess light has the potential to drown out the light from stars and galaxies and threatens to reduce the effectiveness of the observatory’s research telescopes to study the mysteries of the universe.

“This partnership of PBPA and TXOGA with McDonald Observatory to protect dark skies in its vicinity is vital to the research of the universe taking place at McDonald,” said Taft Armandroff, director of the observatory.

The collaboration’s Recommended Lighting Practices document details best lighting practices for drilling rigs and other oilfield structures, including what types of lighting work best and how to reduce glare and improve visibility. These practices will increase the amount of light shining down on worksites, thus increasing safety while decreasing the amount of light pollution in the sky. Reducing excess light helps the observatory and also decreases electricity costs for the oil and gas producers.

The document specifically targets oil and gas operations in the seven counties with existing outdoor lighting ordinances surrounding the McDonald Observatory: Brewster, Culberson, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Pecos, Presidio and Reeves. However, the recommendations can be beneficial across the industry.

A new video that helps to introduce the recommendations to oil and gas companies is now available. It features the observatory’s Bill Wren explaining the importance of dark skies, and how lighting practices can both preserve dark skies and improve safety for oilfield workers. The video was produced with the support of the Apache Corporation, following the company’s extensive collaboration with observatory staff and implementation of these practices with their assets in the area. It is available to watch and share at: https://youtu.be/UnmwnO6CIR4

“For years, the PBPA and the McDonald Observatory have worked together on educating members of the Permian Basin oil and gas community about the Dark Skies Initiative and the possible impact lighting practices can have on the observatory’s work,” said PBPA President Ben Shepperd. “About two years ago, the PBPA board of directors agreed to support the creation of lighting recommendations. We decided a great way to educate members of the industry on how they could provide a positive impact on this issue was through the utilization of such recommended practices.

“So we began work with the observatory to publish recommended lighting practices and have since worked to educate our members and those outside the oil and gas industry on the recommendations through presentations, seminars, articles in magazines and newspapers, and even one-on-one conversations,” Shepperd said.

Recently, the Texas Oil and Gas Association joined the collaboration.

“The Texas Oil and Gas Association recognizes that production practices and protecting the environment are in no way mutually exclusive,” TXOGA President Todd Staples said. “The Recommended Lighting Practices collaborative effort allows for the oil and natural gas industry to continue the work vital to our economy and our future, and for the simultaneous reduction to our ecological footprint.”

In April, the observatory’s Dark Skies Initiative was named one of six Texan by Nature Conservation Wrangler projects for 2018. Texan by Nature, a Texas-led conservation nonprofit founded by former first lady Laura Bush, brings business and conservation together through select programs that engage Texans in the stewardship of land and communities.

The award will provide the observatory connections to technical expertise, industry support, publicity, and more for its Dark Skies Initiative.

“Our Conservation Wrangler program recognizes innovative and transformative conservation projects across the state of Texas,” said Joni Carswell, the organization’s executive director. “Each Conservation Wrangler project positively impacts people, prosperity and natural resources.”

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Media Contacts:
Rebecca Johnson, Communications Manager
McDonald Observatory
The University of Texas at Austin
512-475-6763

Stephen Robertson, Executive VP
Permian Basin Petroleum Association
432-684-6345

Kate Zaykowski, Communications Director
Texas Oil and Gas Association
325-660-2274

Taylor Keys, Program Manager
Texan by Nature
512-284-7482

Castlen Kennedy, VP of Public Affairs
Apache Corporation
713-296-7189

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