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The U.S. is now the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas, thanks in part to New Mexico’s ongoing production. This steady supply helps keep gasoline, diesel, natural gas and electricity prices low; stimulates economic activity; contributes to the U.S. manufacturing renaissance and creates jobs in New Mexico and across the country. As the top producer in New Mexico with a long history in the area, ConocoPhillips provides a stable energy supply for the state while fueling economic growth.

“We’ve been operating safely, efficiently and responsibly in New Mexico for over 50 years and place a high priority on protecting people and the environment,” said Development and Integration Supervisor, Austin Thayer. Our operations in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, one of the largest U.S. natural gas fields, represent more than a quarter of our company’s Lower 48 production and nearly 10 percent of our worldwide volumes. Our Global Onshore Well Management Principles apply throughout the life cycle of a well, from discussions with local communities before drilling site selection to the permanent closure of a well and final restoration of the land. As a company, we’ve voluntarily taken proactive steps to operate more safely, efficiently and responsibly, including reducing our emissions in San Juan.

“We take a lot of pride in what we do, as evidenced by our efforts to reduce our emissions. And, as the largest producer in the basin, we’re proud to be a good neighbor in the community,” said Senior Environmental Coordinator, Clara Cardoza. According to Christi Zeller, Executive Director of the La Plata County Energy Council in Durango Colorado, ConocoPhillips has been a great partner in implementing the Good Neighbor Pledge.

“The industry cooperates together, cost shares and maintains 147 miles of private roads in La Plata County. Response to landowners, complying with Rules and Regulations with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and Bureau of Land Management is accomplished with this voluntary program.” If the oil and gas industry is doing well, the county is doing well,” said Audra Winters, president and CEO of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce. “Workers in the energy industry spend their money in the town’s restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations, hospitals and other service-related businesses. In addition, they purchase homes and automobiles in the area.”
Emissions Reduction Efforts

In San Juan, we’ve reduced emissions associated with well venting by 66 percent by decreasing the number and duration of venting events.

“Emissions reduction has always been a part of our business focus,” explained Sharon Zubrod, manager, Health, Safety & Environment for the company’s Rockies Business Unit. “We’ve assembled a cross-functional team to examine emissions reductions projects that make sense economically and align with the company’s strategy to reduce emissions.”

We also reduced San Juan emissions from pneumatic devices – devices that measure temperature or pressure and transmit a corrective air signal to the final control element – 50 percent by removing, replacing and retrofitting high-bleed pneumatic devices. We plan to completely replace all of our remaining high-bleed devices in the near future.

“These proactive efforts to reduce emissions demonstrate the successful balancing of the economic, social and environmental benefits of ensuring natural gas is a clean fuel across its life cycle,” said Don Hrap, president, Lower 48 business unit.

We’re also in the process of converting some of our 300-truck fleet in Northwest New Mexico from gasoline to propane autogas, dramatically reducing vehicle emissions.

Reducing emissions one pneumatic controller at a time

A pneumatic controller is an automated instrument used to maintain a process condition, like liquid level, pressure or temperature. While crucial to our business, they are a source of emissions.

In the San Juan, most pneumatic controllers are used at the separator. They serve numerous functions, like controlling inlet and pipeline pressure and regulating water bath temperature.

Since 2011, we’ve reduced greenhouse gas emissions by almost half through various projects, including replacing high bleed pneumatic devices with lower bleed pneumatics; changing pneumatic chemical pumps with solar powered pump; and optimizing plunger lift operations and compressor fleets.

Vehicle Conversion

Since 2015 we have converted 50 field service vehicles in San Juan as the first step toward powering a large number of our vehicles with propane autogas instead of gasoline. Within five years, roughly 300 vehicles in San Juan will be converted to propane.

We selected propane over natural gas for a number of reasons, including reduced emissions, range and required tank size. Increased range means the vehicles do not require dual fuel, which would have increased emissions. Propane also proved the most efficient alternative for the area’s higher altitude and is produced in New Mexico.

Two years of extensive tests indicated that propane would deliver similar range, power and dependability for our Ford F-250 and F-350 vehicles used by employees and contractors, who average 25,000 miles per year crisscrossing northwest New Mexico for maintenance and repairs on more than 10,000 wells. Some benefits include:

  • Carbon monoxide emissions are reduced by 60 percent per vehicle. Additional reductions include 12 percent less CO2, 20 percent less nitrogen oxide, and 25 percent less greenhouse gasses.
  • Propane is less flammable than gasoline, improving safety.
  • Fuel tank size doesn’t significantly reduce room in truck bed for tools.
  • Range is roughly equal to gasoline-powered vehicles.
  • Cost per gallon for propane is significantly lower than gasoline.
  • Engines last longer.
  • Maintenance intervals can be extended due to the clean burning properties of propane.

Plunger Lift Optimization

Developed in San Juan, the plunger lift optimization tool (PLOT) monitors and analyzes production data from surface and down-hole equipment at gas wells where artificial lift technology has been installed to remove liquids that can restrict production. Engineers and field operators use this to safely optimize well production and reduce emissions from wells where the technology is applicable.

“The Plunger Lift Optimization Tool (PLOT) aids in maintaining efficient plunger lift operations in the San Juan Basin. San Juan utilizes plunger lift to remove liquids that have accumulated in the wellbore restricting gas flow. A plunger acts like a piston travelling the length of the wellbore providing a mechanical interface that is more efficient at remove liquids than the gas stream alone. PLOT provides an avenue to monitor plunger performance and recommend setting adjustments that result in decreased emissions and increased production,” said Optimization Supervisor, Ian Ellington.

As a result, hydrocarbons start flowing and gas rates increase. The technology continues to monitor the situation as differential pressures build again and the process repeats. Artificial lift devices have produced a return on investment as well as reduced emissions.

“San Juan is recognized as a leader for our plunger optimization,” added Optimization Specialist, Cameron Garrett.