Santa Fe New Mexican | 26 June 2014

Industry, Watchdog Groups Agree: Water Wells Should Be Tested Before Hydraulic Fracturing

The oil and gas industry is urging domestic well owners in New Mexico to test their water quality before and after drilling. Industry watchdog groups want the same thing but for very different reasons.

The New Mexico Oil and Gas Association is encouraging oil and gas well developers to get permission from water well owners to test as a way of proving that drilling and fracking are safe and won’t hurt water quality.

Watchdogs like Kathleen Dudley of Drilling Mora County said water quality tests before oil and gas drilling occurs is insurance for property owners, but they ought to pay for their own tests.

“If a homeowner does not know the quality of water before any industrial activity occurs, they have no baseline by which they can make industry accountable,” Dudley said.

Reed Smith via Mondaq | 22 May 2014

Analysis: Will Texas Fracturing Verdict Stand?

On 22 April 2014, after a two-and-a-half week trial, a Dallas County Court at Law entered a final judgment on a split jury verdict awarding USD 2.925 million to a Texas family, Bob and Lisa Parr from Decatur, against Barnett Shale operator Aruba Petroleum of Plano, Texas, for personal injury and property damages arising out of Aruba’s drilling operations near the Plaintiffs’ property. Parr v. Aruba Petroleum, Cause No. 11-1650-E, County Court at Law No. 5, Dallas County, Texas. Although it has been characterized by some observers as a “win against fracking,” there are reasons to question whether the verdict will stand on appeal and whether it is a harbinger of verdicts to come in the oil and gas industry.


Bloomberg | 6 May 2014

Occidental Says It Will Not Drill Where California Residents Do Not Want It

Occidental Petroleum Chief Executive Officer Steve Chazen said the company’s California spinoff will have plenty of places to drill that will not be hindered by a growing anti-hydraulic-fracturing movement in the state.

The new company, which will be spun off to shareholders as California Resources by year end, won’t drill in communities that oppose oil and gas activity or hydraulic fracturing, Chazen said in a call with investors. Occidental can avoid communities such as Beverly Hills, which have passed limits on hydraulic fracturing, he said.

“To the extent that towns don’t want us there, we won’t be there,” Chazen said, noting that some communities that oppose drilling have high unemployment rates. “Maybe the people in Beverly Hills should park their Rolls Royces and ride bicycles going forward. You can see why I’m not going to be part of the California company.”

CLA | 1 May 2014

Landowners Group Calls for Reassurance on Relaxing Access Rights

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA), the membership organization for owners of land, property, and businesses in rural England and Wales, on 23 April said reports of a potential announcement relaxing access rights for shale gas operators should come as “little surprise.”

The organization said the government has already made clear its commitment to developing the shale gas industry, but landowners need reassurance if access rights for hydraulic fracturing are relaxed.

CLA President Henry Robinson said, “The shale gas industry has consistently pointed to subsurface access rights as a major barrier to the investment and development of fracking.

“This potential announcement is hardly surprising but landowners must be given assurances over what is happening on their land and any liability removed.

“It is vital that any new system put in place recognizes landowners existing rights by providing adequate compensation for any losses incurred and provides a better way to develop an industry in the national interest.”

Rigzone | 28 April 2014

Energy Department Welcomes Fracturing Chemical Disclosure

The US Department of Energy said on 25 April that it welcomes the decision by oil and gas industry supplier Baker Hughes to disclose all chemicals in hydraulic fracturing fluid. But Halliburton, a major competitor in the field, isn’t committing to such disclosure.

Deputy Assistant Energy Secretary Paula Gant said that Baker Hughes’ move “is an important step in building public confidence” and the department “hopes others will follow their lead.”

The oil and gas industry has said the hydraulic fracturing chemicals are disclosed at tens of thousands of wells, but environmental and health groups and government regulators decry a loophole that allows companies to hide chemical “trade secrets.”

Houston-based Halliburton said on 25 April that it is studying the move by Baker Hughes, which is also based in that city. Halliburton said it had an interest in protecting “our intellectual property and the substantial investment it represents” and will examine the new Baker Hughes format for its ability to protect such investments.

Baker Hughes said it now believes it is possible to disclose 100% “of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations,” to increase public trust.

Fuel Fix | 25 April 2014

Baker Hughes To Reveal All Hydraulic Fracturing Chemicals

Baker Hughes says it is ready to divulge all the chemicals it uses in hydraulic fracturing, revelations that other big industry players have limited by asserting the potions they use to get at trapped oil and gas are trade secrets.

In a statement recently posted on its website, the Houston-based oilfield services firm says it “believes it is possible to disclose 100 percent of the chemical ingredients we use in hydraulic fracturing fluids without compromising our formulations—a balance that increases public trust while encouraging commercial innovation.”

Baker Hughes included a disclaimer: It would reveal its chemical data “where accepted by our customers and relevant governmental authorities.” The company said it will take several months for it to negotiate with its suppliers before it can release its data.

The new disclosures, the company said, would eliminate any trade secret claims about its reports to FracFocus, an industry-backed database that regulators in Texas and other states use as a clearinghouse for fracturing-fluid data.

PR Newswire | 23 April 2014

Texas Family Wins Landmark USD-3-Million Verdict Against Hydraulic Fracturing Firm

A Dallas jury awarded a local family USD 3 million for the illnesses they suffered from exposure to contaminated ground water, solid toxic waste, and airborne chemicals generated by natural gas hydraulic fracturing operations surrounding their 40-acre ranch.

The verdict against Aruba Petroleum is seen as a landmark decision for opponents of hydraulic fracturing, the process of drilling and injecting high-pressure fluid into the ground in order to fracture shale rock to release natural gas. Up to 600 chemicals are used in fracturing fluid, including several known carcinogens and other toxins. According to studies, only 30 to 50% of the fracturing fluid is recovered in an operation. The rest of the toxic fluid is left to penetrate the ground and is not biodegradable.

Robert and Lisa Parr, along with their young daughter, began experiencing health problems in 2009, after Aruba began drilling the first of 20 wells that the company operates less than 2 miles from the Parr’s ranch near Decatur, Texas, about 45 miles northwest of Fort Worth.

Reuters | 21 April 2014

Apache CEO, Vermont Activist Build Alliance

Steve Farris runs a USD-33-billion Texas oil and gas company and turns, for advice, to a bearded Vermont environmentalist.

As other energy firms battled climate change and antipollution activists in recent years, the Apache chief executive instead built an alliance with Steven Heim, managing director of Boston Common Asset Management, one of the better-known socially responsible investment firms.

The relationship helped Apache sidestep time-consuming proxy fights that have plagued some of its peers, in exchange for changes like committing to protect the rights of native peoples living near remote gas projects, and using cleaner chemicals in hydraulic fracturing, a drilling method that environmentalists say could threaten groundwater.

Heim also stages investor meetings for Apache where its executives and engineers take questions on topics such as pollution or human rights. These draw representatives from mainstream investment firms such as T. Rowe Price, Gabelli & Co, and Morgan Stanley & Co.

“What I’ve been trying to do is to elevate the level of understanding of issues by the investors, not just the executives,” Heim said.

IPIECA | 20 March 2014

Integrating Human Rights Into Environmental, Social, and Health Impact Assessments

A guide released by IPIECA offers practical advice on how human rights can be integrated into environmental, social, and health impact assessments (ESHIAs) for oil and gas sector projects.

Designed for industry ESHIA practitioners and consulting firms, the guide is the outcome of a collaborative effort by impact assessment experts from global oil and gas companies brought together by IPIECA and human rights practitioners from the Danish Institute for Human Rights. Working together, they have attempted to bridge the gaps in terminology, processes, and approaches between the ESHIA and human rights impact assessment communities.

In addition to providing a brief introduction to human rights, the guide explains why it is important for the sector to consider the potential human rights impacts of its projects and activities.



Workshop Examines Technology of Social Responsibility

Because social responsibility is growing in importance in oil and gas operations, SPE will conduct an applied technology workshop that will highlights state-of-the-art technologies and their role in social responsibility strategies in extremely sensitive environments.

The multidisciplinary workshop will deal with the most outstanding challenges and achievements in advanced technology as they apply to health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility. It will be held 27–29 May in Quito, Ecuador.

Organizations must understand and communicate social responsibility risks to stakeholders early in the project cycle so that a foundation of trust and good communication is established with the often critical stakeholders affected by development in extremely sensitive environments. Many oil and gas operators have recently learned that social responsibility issues need to be at the front of the planning train in order to establish a sustainable development plan.

This workshop intends to explore and discuss some of these key technologies, what has worked, what has not worked, and areas where future technological innovation is necessary to strengthen the social license to operate in extremely sensitive environments. It will also provide an opportunity to share and learn from the field experiences of successful industry players.

Workshops maximize the exchange of ideas among attendees and presenters through brief technical presentations followed by extended question and answer periods. Focused topics attract an informed audience eager to discuss issues critical to advancing both technology and best practices.

Many of the presentations are in the form of case studies, highlighting engineering achievements and lessons learned. In order to stimulate frank discussion, no proceedings are published and members of the press are not invited to attend.

The workshop will consist of two days of informal sessions with a number of short presentations and a third half day for conclusions and recommendations.

Attendees qualify for SPE continuing education units at the rate of 0.1 unit per hour of the workshop and will receive a certificate from SPE.

Preservation Leadership Forum | 28 February 2014

The Converging Roads to Energy Independence and Heritage Preservation

Hydraulic fracturing, or the extraction of natural gas from rock formations called shale, has enabled the United States to become the largest natural gas producer in the world, ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia. The United States, which for so long has been an importer of natural gas, is now poised to become an exporter. The shale gas industry will support more than 1.6 million jobs by 2035. The shale gas boom is fueling not only robust economic development but also addressing national security concerns and providing a cleaner bridge fuel to renewable energy resources.

It is important to balance this development, which includes not only well pads but also pipelines, roads, and associated infrastructure, with protection for our historic and cultural resources. The Society for American Archaeology has estimated that more than 195,000 historic and cultural sites may be affected by shale gas development in just the nine currently active shale plays.

Many natural gas energy executives love and want to preserve our shared history. And preservation professionals understand the need for the development of sustainable sources of fuel. In an effort to bring these two groups together and ensure that shale gas development and historic preservation can coexist effectively, last fall, people from the natural gas industry and the preservation community founded the Gas and Preservation Partnership (GAPP). GAPP is an innovative nonprofit organization whose mission is to work collaboratively and pragmatically with both the preservation community and the energy industry to identify and properly manage historic and cultural resources while encouraging efficient exploration and development of energy reserves.

Rigzone | 5 February 2014

Morocco Says It Will Follow UN Rules in Disputed Sahara Oil Hunt

Morocco has joined France’s Total and US explorer Kosmos to formally pledge that their hunt for oil off the coast of disputed Western Sahara will comply with international rules and that the local population would benefit from discoveries.

Morocco has issued exploration licenses for blocks in Atlantic waters off Western Sahara, a desert tract that it mostly controls but which is also claimed by an Algerian-backed independence movement that deems those contracts illegal.

The Western Sahara dispute has rarely made world headlines since 1991, when a UN-brokered ceasefire ended a 15-year war between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario movement.

But the intentions of Total and Kosmos to step up exploration plans have brought one of Africa’s oldest territorial disputes into focus. Kosmos has said it plans to drill its first exploration well off Western Sahara this year.

Morocco’s two declarations, signed separately with each of the companies, represent the north African state’s clearest commitment yet to respect international rules and seek local involvement in oil and gas exploration activities in an area it considers part of its historic “southern provinces.”