Williams’ ‘green completions’ earn EPA award

When Williams Production RMT began its first “green completions” of natural gas wells back in 2001, it was mainly with the goal of reducing wildfire danger.

Company spokeswoman Susan Alvillar noted it used to be common to see flaring of excess gas as Williams did the work necessary to put wells into production.

However, it started capturing rather than burning off the gas, which does more than eliminate a fire risk. It helps reduce a source of global warming.

For Williams, its shift in approach led to an honor from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Natural Gas STAR program, which encourages reductions in methane emissions by oil and gas companies.

Williams received a Continuing Excellence award for five years of efforts in the program.

Two other companies with local operations were honored with Continuing Excellence awards: ExxonMobil, for seven years of emissions reductions, and Occidental, for five years.

Methane, the primary component in natural gas, is 23 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere, the EPA says.

Since 2002, Williams Production has employed technologies and practices that have kept 53 billion cubic feet of methane from being emitted. That includes 14.6 billion of the 115 billion cubic feet of emissions reductions by all participants in the program last year.

Williams’ cumulative emissions reductions are equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of nearly 4 million passenger vehicles, the EPA says.

Rick Matar, air quality practice manager for Williams, said the company does green completions because it’s “the right thing to do.” The emissions reductions also create economic benefits for energy producers and royalty owners because they result in more gas being sold.

However, the challenge with such emissions controls is they may not be feasible or make sense in all situations, Matar said. He likes the EPA program because it’s voluntary, and thus more flexible than rules.

Air quality advocates have sought more regulations for the industry because some emissions can pose health hazards.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission now requires odor controls and green completion practices in certain circumstances, but only in Garfield, Mesa and Rio Blanco counties, where odor complaints have been high.

The rules only require green completions “where practicable.”

Alvillar said companies can seek variances, such as where they are completing wells not yet served by pipelines that can transport captured methane.


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