Oil driller sees future of industry in power rigs and carbon offsets

A rig worker works on an electric drilling rig for petroleum producer Civitas Resources, on the outskirts of Denver, in Broomfield, Colorado, the United States on December 2, 2021. Photo taken on December 2, 2021. REUTERS / Liz Hampton

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BROOMFIELD, Colo., Dec. 20 (Reuters) – In a Denver suburb, an oil rig plows land near a wealthy pocket surrounded by snow-capped mountains. The site is quieter, cleaner, and less visible than similar oil and gas operations. This may be the future of drilling in the United States.

Oil company Civitas Resources designed the operation to run largely on the city’s electricity grid, eliminating the daily trips of more than a dozen diesel trucks. The electric platform has no smell of soot or sulfur from diesel exhaust and is suffocated enough that the platform’s hands can converse without screaming.

As investors and lawmakers push the oil industry to cut carbon emissions, this drilling site and others run by Civitas offer a model for drillers looking to migrate to low-carbon or zero-emission operations. of carbon.

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An added incentive for Civitas is that it has to watch out for neighbors to its drilling sites in relatively wealthy suburban areas, where it also has easier access to the electricity grid. technology as easily.

Civitas, Colorado’s largest oil and gas producer, claims it is the state’s leading “carbon neutral” producer. To achieve this, it has eliminated certain diesel engine pumps, upgraded its drilling and hydraulic fracturing equipment and its production sites. It also purchases carbon credits to offset the remaining emissions.

‘NO DUST, NO TRAFFIC’

A few kilometers away, another Civitas platform with 18 wells is hidden behind an earth berm, largely invisible to the surrounding community. It has dozens of air monitoring sensors to detect greenhouse gas emissions. Its pneumatic controls have been adapted to prevent methane leaks. This is the first Civitas facility to remove oil and wastewater storage tanks.

“Everything is routed directly out of the location. There is no dust, no truck traffic required to produce the hydrocarbons, ”said Matt Owens, COO of Civitas.

Colorado, one of the largest oil producers among US states, also has some of the strictest emissions regulations. He told energy companies they needed to reduce methane emissions from drilling by 2030 to less than half of 2005 levels. More and more drillers are also facing stricter mandates as the President Joe Biden’s administration promulgates stricter federal rules on methane.

“The electrification of the borehole, the upgrade of the tire and the tankless use are certainly steps in the right direction,” said Deborah Gordon, senior director of the Rocky Mountain Institute’s climate intelligence group.

Colorado’s stricter regulatory environment has changed in part due to the industry’s proximity to homes and businesses. For Civitas, this suburban life means strong local power supplies.

“All the power lines that were built for urban expansion, we can tap them,” said Brian Cain, Civitas director of sustainability, during a visit to a drilling site. He estimates that switching from diesel to the electricity grid reduces emissions by 20 to 25%. “The landscape is very different from that of West Texas,” where operators do not have easy access to adequate power supply, he said.

Some environmentalists have said that reducing greenhouse gas emissions from oil drilling is not enough, and are arguing instead for society to move away from fossil fuel use altogether. This year, the International Energy Agency said investors would have to stop funding new oil, gas and coal supply projects if the world is to reach net zero emissions by mid-century. Read more

CONCERNS ABOUT THE ELECTRICAL NETWORK

While electrification offers a quick way to reduce production emissions, there are other barriers. Civitas is changing work schedules to avoid overloading the network during peak heating or cooling periods, Cain said.

In Texas, however, the major oil fields “tend not to be urban environments” with a lot of electricity, said Don Whaley, president of Texas retail electricity supplier OhmConnect Energy.

Texas second-largest producer Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD.N) aims to electrify drilling, hydraulic fracturing and compression at pumping stations within eight to ten years, its chief executive pledged last week. The company has already started replacing compression at pumping stations to move oil and gas for electricity, chief executive Scott Sheffield said.

Pioneer is working with Texas transmission operator Oncor to increase capacity near the oilfield. She and other shale oil companies will likely cover some of the costs of upgrading power lines and substations to reduce diesel fuel consumption more quickly, Sheffield said.

Hydraulic fracturing, the pumping of water, sand, and chemicals into boreholes to release trapped oil and gas, undergoes its own conversion. So-called electrical fracturing, powered by fossil fuels from nearby wells, has only just emerged.

Leading U.S. fracking supplier Halliburton Co (HAL.N) said this year it has successfully deployed a grid-powered fracking operation, which has significantly reduced its carbon footprint, according to a report from the company.

“When you switch to electrical fracking, that’s the white whale for us,” said Cain, who he said could reduce emissions from completions by 20 to 30 percent. “It’s a huge advantage for us in terms of total greenhouse gas.”

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Reporting by Liz Hampton in Broomfield, Colorado; Editing by David Gregorio

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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