We are committed to reducing emissions from our activities and following all applicable governmental regulations. Since 2000, we have instituted a variety of programs to achieve emission reductions, including using infrared cameras to detect minute natural gas releases, reducing methane venting during well completions and installing new automated flare-monitoring alarms. Over the past five years, such steps have helped reduce or prevent the release of nearly 9 billion cubic feet of methane emissions from our facilities within the Lower 48 U.S. states.
Forward Looking Infrared Radiometer (FLIR) cameras detect leaks in wellheads, tanks, emission-control equipment and pipelines. Rapidly scanning large areas, the cameras enable operators to pinpoint even small leaks in real time, well before they could be detected through conventional means. This allows us to find and repair leaks faster, reducing atmospheric emissions as well as associated safety and fire hazards.
We were also an early adopter of reduced emissions completion technology (“green completions”). Green completions occur after a well has been drilled. During well completions, following hydraulic fracturing, natural gas and hydrocarbon liquids flow to the surface, bringing with them a portion of the fluids injected as part of the completion process. In a green completion, operators bring temporary processing equipment to the well site to separate gas and liquid hydrocarbons from the water produced during the flowback period of the completion process. The gas is then captured to be flared or sent to pipelines for eventual delivery to consumers.
Cooperation in Action
In our U.S. San Juan Business Unit, a pilot green completions project that started in 2007 has captured approximately 3.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas. “That’s the equivalent of the production from three wells,” says Gary Hancock, an engineer in the San Juan region. “It makes sense both for the environment and for business.” All our wells in the San Juan Basin now utilize green completions, and the company plans to extend the project to as many other regions as possible.
In some cases, green completions are not feasible due to a lack of pipeline infrastructure, insufficient natural gas flow to the surface or flow of gas that is unsuitable for recovery. In such cases the gas is flared. Flaring is a controlled burning process that safely eliminates volatile organic compounds (VOCs) as well as methane, yielding carbon dioxide and water. If safety, environmental or other conditions prevent flaring, the gas is vented.