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 Community Engagement

John Donnelly, JPT Editor

John Donnelly, JPT EditorThe growth in unconventionals production and the spotlight on hydraulic fracturing have heightened public concern about oil and gas industry operations and raised the stakes for those working in the industry. News media reports, movies, Internet blogs, and political debate have combined to add scrutiny to upstream operations and their potential impact on health, the environment, and local communities.

It has become not only an industry and company issue, but an individual one as well. Many engineers and other staff in the industry are getting questions about their companies’ operations from neighbors and others in their communities. Hydraulic fracturing is usually the focal point. Even though fracturing has been used by the industry since the late 1940s, many believe it is a new technology that potentially threatens water supplies and spawns other negative effects. Anti-fracturing initiatives are currently being proposed in numerous cities and states around the ­United States. A number of resources are available to help members of the industry answer these questions. SPE’s www.energy4me site offers information on hydraulic fracturing and other industry technologies, classroom resources for teachers, and industry careers. Other industry-affiliated associations, including the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America, provide materials as well.

The API recently issued what it calls the “gold standard” for how companies and management should engage with communities affected by exploration and development of unconventional oil and gas resources. ANSI-API Bulletin 100-3 was released after 3 years of discussions with producers, community leaders, US state regulators, property owners, and other stakeholders.

The standard details how producers can help prepare communities for energy exploration activities, minimize disruption to communities, and manage resources. It is divided into five segments: entry, exploration, development, operations, and exit.

  • During the entry phase, companies introduce key staff to local leaders, provide information about operations and safety, and discuss standards for contractors and staff.
  • When exploratory drilling begins, producers should focus on transparency, open dialogue with the public, and education about its operations. Local job opportunities also could be discussed.
  • During the development phase, companies should work with local emergency responders to prepare for any potential hazards, and environmental and safety standards should be clearly communicated.
  • During the operations phase, the focus involves reclamation of affected lands, establishment of standards on maintenance of operations and traffic safety, and implementation of feedback opportunities for local residents and officials.
  • During the exit phase, companies may close or transfer ownership of operations, and keep the community informed of plans for additional reclamation and restoration.

API said it hopes the guidelines will serve as a “gold standard” for good neighbor policies that address community concerns, enhance local development, and ensure a two-way conversation regarding mutual goals for community growth.