Because of the very large number of wells in a typical development, and because the wells require fracture stimulation, shale and tight sand unconventional projects may have large land, water, and air "footprints". Responding to rapid industry growth, the public has become concerned about the impacts of development on their communities. This has resulted in protests, moratoria, and bans against exploration in general and hydraulic fracture stimulation in particular. In order to gain social license to operate going forward, industry must be both responsible in fact and also seen to be responsible in mitigating these impacts and addressing concerns.

Fortunately there are a number of technology opportunities that serve the twin goals of environmentally responsible operations and efficient exploration and development. For example in the exploratory stage, better models to predict the economically viable part of the play, and to know what to measure and how to assess productivity in early wells, will allow companies to drill fewer, widely spread single wells and more quickly move to multi-well pads in the ultimately developable area. Real-time monitoring of fracture stimulation gives feedback to optimize pumping strategies and increase per-well productivities. Shear stimulation can require less water than current practice, which helps both the source and disposal sides of the process. Fit-for-purpose drilling rigs of the future can be tuned to the minimum necessary size and require fewer staff to run.

These examples and others are either already in hand or on the horizon, and are active areas of research for both service companies and many oil companies. They can be applied globally to lift the performance of all operators both in fact and also in public perception, thus helping to ensure continued access to these important resources for the future of our industry.

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