The safe and responsible development of oil and gas resources is essential to meet the complex energy demands facing us today and enhance public acceptance of expanding industry activity. While use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling techniques in shale formations has resulted in rapid growth in oil and gas production in the United States and a transformed world energy outlook, these practices have also presented concerns associated with impacts from industrial activities. Extracting energy from shale has required more complex hydraulic fracturing operations, with a corresponding increase in equipment, personnel and materials, including water.

A comprehensive suite of technologies and best practices provides our industry with solutions to improve the efficiency of hydraulic fracturing operations, while addressing safety risks, environmental stewardship and community concerns. Environmental and social challenges are varied and significant, with community and regulatory stakeholders focused on reducing emissions, noise, truck traffic and water use while safeguarding water quality. The ultimate goal is to reduce the footprint of hydraulic fracturing activities and to do so at a reasonable cost, to ensure energy remains affordable for communities, industry and overall economic growth.

Extensive research and development has produced cost-efficient technologies that support safe, environmentally responsible hydraulic fracturing operations. Case studies of widely applicable technologies presently used in various shales throughout the United States will be reviewed to demonstrate such benefits as:

  • Replacing diesel with cleaner-burning natural gas for engines, with examples of up to 70% reduced diesel use;

  • Eliminating truck trips to supply materials including diesel and water, reducing community traffic;

  • Reusing up to 100% of flowback water and using produced water rather than fresh water through advanced treatment technologies;

  • Reducing well site emissions, in some cases decreasing nitrogen oxides (NOx) 50%, particulate matter 70%, carbon monoxide (CO) 100%, and carbon dioxide 32%;

  • Developing measurably greener chemistries for downhole fracturing fluids; and

  • Promoting greater transparency in the chemistries used in fracturing fluids

Technology innovations must be combined with operational best practices and continued collaboration among industry partners, communities and other key stakeholders. Together, this can promote the sustainability of hydraulic fracturing operations and build public trust.

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