November 1, 2012

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Energy Development in the Uintah Basin

A Boon for the Economy, the Bane of Conservation?

Gaylen Webb

November 1, 2012

Earth Day Awards
John Rogers, associate director in the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, says Anadarko received a 2012 Earth Day Award from the division for the company’s efforts to reduce the amount of land it disturbs at its well pads through its advanced directional drilling techniques and through other minimization efforts. The award also acknowledges Anadarko’s reclamation efforts.

Rogers says Questar Pipeline Company also received a 2012 Earth Day Award for its work in protecting the viewshed along the Green River corridor, where the company buried a high-pressure natural gas line. Questar didn’t want people to have to observe the pipeline as they rafted or fished the Green River, he explains, so the company established a way to hide the pipeline and the work, when it was done, from all of the viewpoints.

In 2011, Newfield Exploration, Utah’s largest oil producer, also received an Earth Day Award from the division for working closely with private landowners in Duchesne and Uintah Counties to create drilling programs that access oil and gas resources while preserving normal farming operations.

Keith Schmidt, Newfield’s media relations officer, says the company is highly conscious of the environment. Like Anadarko, Newfield utilizes horizontal drilling to make the most efficient use of its drill pads and infrastructure. Newfield also uses existing roads as much as possible to reduce its footprint on the landscape.

Water Recycling
In 2011, Newfield began water treatment operations in the Uintah Basin by opening its state-of-the-art Sand Wash facility, which recycles up to 10,000 barrels per day of produced water (the water that comes out of the well bore with the oil and gas). Newfield separates the produced water from the oil and gas at the well pad and trucks it to the Sand Wash facility for treatment. The water is later re-injected into the oil-producing formation, which enhances oil recovery and saves precious water resources.

Schmidt notes that Newfield just built a centralized gas and oil separation facility that is reducing truck traffic in the field. Previously, trucks hauling the oil to the refinery picked up their loads at the well pads. Now the trucks pick up their loads at the centralized separation facility. “Our intent is to lower our impact overall,” says Schmidt.

Lucero believes the Basin’s energy economy doesn’t have to grow at the expense of conservation interests and says companies like Anadarko, Newfield, Questar and many others are demonstrating their concern for the environment.

“Oil and gas are not the only resources to be developed in Governor Herbert’s strategic energy plan, but they are important resources,” she adds. “We have the technology to develop them responsibly, which not only benefits the overall economy, but also our schools through SITLA and every community in the state through the Community Impact Board.”

Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) revenues come primarily from natural gas, coal, oil, real estate development and other surface uses such as grazing. Those revenues have grown 270 percent since 2001. All net revenue from the trust lands is deposited in the permanent State School Fund. Interest and dividends from the fund are distributed annually to Utah’s schools. A record-setting $29 million was distributed to school community councils this year, according to the School Children’s Trust Section of the Utah State Office of Education.

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