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Good Practices Make Good Neighbors: Innovations in Urban/Suburban Oil and Gas Operations Can Minimize Impacts, Reduce Risk

April 12, 2019 — The oil and gas (O&G) industry drives much of the infrastructure that enables modern life as we know it—from transportation and telecommunications to water and waste management to power generation and transmission. As demand for energy has grown, so too has fossil fuel production. Recent technological innovations in extraction have expanded development site possibilities, some of which border residential areas. Residents living near O&G development sites are apprehensive about the possible effects of extraction and exploration on their health, lifestyle, and the environment. As the O&G industry expands operations into urban/suburban areas, what steps can companies take to ensure that they have both legal and social license to operate?

To answer this question, researchers and analysts at the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis (JISEA) met with small and large companies in the O&G industry to identify and examine innovative practices and technologies being implemented to help mitigate negative community impacts of oil and gas operations. The study offers a snapshot of industry best practices that address five key areas of concern for local communities:

  • Air emissions and odor prevention
  • Water usage and treatment
  • Transportation and traffic reduction
  • Noise reduction
  • Clean energy development.

The research revealed that adopting innovative O&G development practices that mitigate disruption to local populations can pay dividends.

  • Reducing natural gas infrastructure leakage can go a long way in reducing production emissions, especially methane. Combining new equipment that is designed to reduce emissions with improved operational practices and regular inspections can reduce the likelihood of such leaks. For example, by capping older wells with modern technology, O&G companies can make a substantial dent in volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.

  • Innovative water sourcing, transport, and produced water management and treatment methods can reduce the use of freshwater, as well as the need for underground injection well disposal. Implementing practices such as using recycled produced water or treated wastewater to fracture wells can have a positive impact on operational water usage. By collaborating with nearby cities on these issues, O&G companies can take steps that reduce both operating costs and risks to the region’s freshwater resources.   

  • The employment of sound walls, site electrification, and diesel engines with sound suppression can help reduce the noise associated with exploration and production. O&G companies can vastly reduce the noise associated with operations by incorporating sound walls and quieter equipment into their standard procedures.

  • Truck traffic can be curtailed by using temporary piping to deliver water to well sites and by using other piping to dispose of flowback water, post-recycling. For example, the use of temporary piping for all water-sourcing can be a win-win scenario for O&G companies, allowing them to reduce truck traffic while saving on trucking costs.

In working proactively to develop goodwill in affected populations by adopting practices and technologies demonstrated to minimize community impact as well as operational risk, O&G companies can help secure their ability to operate successfully now and in the years the come. Download the study.

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