Gas industry aims to boost ‘green’ image

From using approaches to drilling that are reminiscent of Sim City games to finding ways to make use of water produced when collecting coal-bed methane, more can be done to improve the effects of the energy industry, speakers said Thursday at Mesa State College.

The natural gas industry is doing all it can to improve its approach and image, Richard C. Haut, program manager for the Environmentally Friendly Drilling System Program, said at the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association environmental summit at the college.

About 100 students, industry representatives and others heard a variety of presentations aimed at showing how the industry can tend or already is tending to a variety of environmental needs.

The pressure for natural gas production is only going to increase because of the abundance of gas and increasingly effective ways of collecting it, Haut said.

“It’s in everybody’s backyard,” Haut said, but the issues surrounding gas development differ by region, from the semi-arid Piceance Basin of northwest Colorado to the rolling hills of Pennsylvania overlaying the Marcellus Shale to the Fayetteville Shale of Arkansas.

Arkansas is working on a system aimed at allowing drilling companies to study potential drill sites using a computer program that lets them “understand the environmental impacts at well pads,” said Jack Cothren of the University of Arkansas. The state hopes to use the system to speed permitting for drilling and allow the industry to find better locations for well pads, Cothren said.

There are efforts, as well, to better understand exactly how drill rigs tap reservoirs of natural gas a mile or more below the surface, said Dag Nummedal of Colorado School of Mines.

“It’s actually shocking how little we know about the rocks we produce the gas from,” Nummedal said.

Better information about what happens in the earth could increase yield and possibly reduce the number of wells needed to tap a reservoir of gas, said Robert Siegfried of the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America.

Coal-bed methane production also tends to produce water, which previously has been treated as a waste byproduct. There might be uses, however, such as crop irrigation or even domestic use for that water, said Nathan Hancock of Colorado School of Mines’ aquatic center.

Produced water from drilling is “drought proof” because it’s found deep in the earth, and its supply could last well beyond the 30- to 70-year horizon for oil and gas production, Hancock said.


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