Standing on the Divide

divide_mountainsWe are so fortunate to live in Colorado, a state filled with so many beautiful places that can, quite literally, take your breath away. From the snow-capped peaks of Longs Peak and the rugged beauty of the Grand Mesa to the open prairies of the Eastern Plains and the Sand Dunes in southern Colorado, there is much to cherish in all corners of our state.

For me, however, one particular place always has stood out as quintessential Colorado. It’s less of a place, and more of a moment — that moment when you’re driving west on Interstate 70 out of the city and you crest the hill near Genesee and you see the panoramic view of the Continental Divide.

Majestic, sweeping and strong. That’s Colorado.

We’ve named this blog, Standing on the Divide, with that image in mind because, often, that’s where we seem to find ourselves. For the past several years, COGA has been straddling the extremes in Colorado, and trying to strike a proper balance when it comes to responsible oil and gas production in our state.

We understand that many Coloradans have real concerns about energy development (and we want to address them), yet we also know and believe that we have a duty to continue developing our natural resources in a responsible manner because it’s good for Colorado, good for our economy and good for our country.

When you’re standing on a divide, you’re forced to find balance, a center.

At COGA, we will always strive to do what’s best for industry but we also want to do what’s best for Colorado, too, and we believe those real solutions are found at the top of the divide, not down in the valley of extremes.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Since I’ve only been on the job here at COGA for 5 months, I spent part of this summer traveling the state to learn more about Colorado’s oil and gas industry and our impact on communities and the economy. I met with state lawmakers, county commissioners, city councilors, citizens, industry workers and other stakeholders, and visited several drilling sites and operations.

Low commodity prices are impacting the entire state but each stop was different, largely because other issues vary across the state.

In Weld County, they enjoy the economic benefits of oil and gas development but also feel the impacts. More than 80 percent of the oil produced in Colorado comes from Weld County. Some county commissioners there are concerned about self-governance. They don’t want the state to play local land-use manager.

In Grand Junction, business leaders have concerns about the economy, a drop in the number of drilling rigs in the Piceance Basin and the continued low price for natural gas. They’re so concerned they’re pro-actively seeking new markets for their product. Many of them also worry about state government making rules that apply to the entire state, even though the rules are directed at solving Front Range issues.

In Adams County, there are concerns about the proximity of future drilling operations to homes.

In LaPlata County, where coalbed methane is developed, they’ve seemingly solved many of the conflicts we’re dealing with on the Front Range but they’re still grappling with the low costs of gas.

And in Garfield County, as it is in so many places, it’s about finding a balance.

It was good to be reminded during rig tours how much technology in the field continues to evolve and improve. Operators are becoming much more efficient in how they develop oil and natural gas.

The footprint of activity is getting smaller – and emissions are decreasing — even as production goes up.

At our Rocky Mountain Energy Summit in late August, one of the speakers said the oil and gas industry was more high tech than the high tech industry. I saw that over and over again when I toured drill sites, but especially as I toured the WPX Energy water processing plant on the Western Slope with Anne Carto, one of COGA’s Community Outreach Coordinators.

Because of this state-of-the-art facility and the innovative practices there, WPX has been able to treat and re-use the same water in the Piceance Basin for five years. That process basically makes WPX’s operations water-neutral in that basin. But it doesn’t stop there.

A few years ago, when WPX developed 87 natural gas wells from 14 pads east of Parachute, the company made one centralized facility to frack all of the wells rather than setting up operations on each pad. By moving fracking fluid through temporary pipelines, they eliminated about 12,000 truck trips. Overall, WPX handled 145 million gallons of fracking fluid and produced-water by pipeline rather than truck. That’s enough to fill 220 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

That’s the kind of innovation that will help propel the oil and gas industry into the future.

We need to continue to be good stewards of the land — to reduce our footprint when possible, to reduce and re-use water, to lower emissions, and continue to responsibly produce our natural resources.

When commodity prices are low, innovation and efficiency become more than buzzwords. They become necessities in many ways.

At COGA, we look forward to telling you more about those exciting innovations and technological advances and what they mean for industry and Coloradans.