December 2016, Vol. 243, No. 12


Energy Pipeline: Setting the Standard in Oil Transportation with High Pressure Gathering

In November 2015, Anadarko's centralized oil stabilization facility was under construction.The facility has since been completed.

Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. recently unveiled a new technology in oil-gathering that could decrease the impact some well sites have on their surroundings, potentially easing the sometimes strained relationships between the industry and its neighbors. When it will be available to all, however, is still unknown.

The technology, which was presented to the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission for the first time in late July, could significantly minimize the number of truck trips to and from a well site. Anadarko has been investing in technologies to improve how they tap into natural resources while operating safely, efficiently and with less impact, said Korby Bracken, director of Health, Safety and Environment.

“One recent innovation we implemented is our High Vapor Pressure oil gathering system, which transports the resources at a higher pressure, enabling us to operate without storage tanks on site,” Bracken said in an interview. “This technology greatly reduces surface and visual disturbance and improves safety by reducing associated truck traffic.”

When HVP is in play, resources extracted at the well are piped offsite with most of the gas still mixed in. That liquid is piped to a Central Oil Stabilization Facility (COSF) – instead of to a separator at the well site. The liquid is processed and stabilized at the COSF and sent to the sale line.

Oil-gathering and pipeline investments have significantly decreased truck traffic and other emissions. For example, various water-management practices eliminated 1,500 truck trips per day, and in 2015 about 7 million miles of truck traffic were eliminated because of new water pipelines.

Oil-gathering pipelines, which transport the high pressurized oil to a centralized facility, eliminated 3.5 million truck traffic miles in 2015. Between oil-gathering and water pipelines truck traffic has been cut by 50 million miles since inception, officials say.

“The investments we have made in technology to reduce truck traffic, surface impacts and emissions make our communities safer, cleaner and healthier,” said Korby.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has given the technology its blessing as well. In addition to eliminating truck traffic, said Matt Lepore, director of the COGCC, limiting the number of onsite storage tanks will eliminate emissions, improve the site’s aesthetics, and minimize fire hazard that may come with trucks connecting and disconnecting from the tanks.

“So from all those points of view, being able to eliminate those tanks is a benefit as far as we are concerned,” said Lepore.

Technologies like HVP are always encouraged by the COGCC, but when they can be enforced is a different story. According to a set of rules adopted by the commission late last year one of them, 604c4, requires oil operators to build large facilities as far as possible from existing buildings and they must “operate using the best available technology to avoid or minimize adverse impacts to joining land use.”

However, Lepore said when the COGCC can enforce technologies like HVP depends on many factors. For example, a smaller operator may not have the resources, such as a centralized facility or easement to lay pipe, to economically implement a technology like HVP.

“We are trying to push operators toward pipelines, in favor of pipelines and disfavor of storage tanks,” Lepore said. “But we are talking about the storage tank having been a model for decades. So transitioning to a different model is not likely to happen overnight.”

Matt Sura is an oil and gas attorney who specializes in representing landowners and neighborhoods. He is also in favor of the new technology and sees it as a tool in improving relationships between the oil and gas industry and the neighborhoods in which they drill.

At the same time, he wants the state to require operators to use the best technologies available – such as with HVP – because drilling and fracking may only impact neighbors for months, but the emissions and dangers from storage tanks, truck trips and separators impact neighborhoods for decades.

Nevertheless Sura said, “Anadarko’s commitment to HVP technology makes them the leader in Colorado in reducing impacts to adjacent landowners.”

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