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Oil and natural gas deposits are found throughout the world in underground formations, such as sandstone, carbonates, coal and shale.

Gaining access to these deposits involves drilling vertical, horizontal or multilateral wells to the target formation. Various completion techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing, are then used to create an effective connection between the well and the targeted hydrocarbon-containing formation, thereby providing a pathway for the oil or gas to be produced.

Before drilling a well, our geologists and engineers complete a full analysis of the geology using proprietary and public data. They assess results from other wells drilled in the vicinity, including water wells, producing oil and gas wells and nonproducing wells (dry wells). A plan is developed for drilling and completing the well that must be approved by state regulators. The company proactively engages key stakeholders, including communities, officials, government agencies and regulators, as plans are being developed.

Many of the steps described are common to all oil and gas well planning and operation efforts, regardless of well design or the formation being targeted for development.


A drill site is prepared, a rig is moved in, and drilling begins.

Cooperation in Action

In the Madden Field in the Wind River Basin of Wyoming, we are working to maximize revegetation using plants that benefit wildlife, especially sage grouse. Working with 2 other companies and a few government agencies, we are currently in the final stage of a 3-year cooperative sage grouse study.

We are also working with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to create a prototype for developing natural gas in an environmentally friendly way on federal land at a coalbed gas field near Price, Utah. These efforts include:

  • All compression uses electric motors to reduce field emissions.
  • All pipelines and power lines are buried.
  • No drilling or construction is allowed while big game winters in the area.
  • Seed mixes are planted that benefit wildlife.
  • Multiple annual reviews are conducted to ensure integrity of equipment.

Every year, ConocoPhillips works with federal agencies in Alaska to conduct polar bear den detection surveys before winter off-pad operations begin. Using an aircraft-mounted infrared camera, scientists look for heat sources in the snow. By identifying den locations ahead of time, we can avoid disturbing sows and cubs during this sensitive stage of their life cycle.

We recognize the importance of protecting and promoting biodiversity, particularly in sensitive areas. We are continuously building our knowledge about the ecosystems in which we work to compare our performance to other extractive-industry companies.