Improved E&P technology is benefiting wildlife in West, report says

Exploration and production technology innovations are benefiting wildlife in the US West, a June 14 report issued by the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming (PAW) suggested.

Increased use of horizontal and directional drilling, paired with hydraulic fracturing, has lowered surface disturbance by 70%, significantly reducing potential impacts on sage grouse, mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and other big game habitat, it said.

The report, “Gaining Ground: Industry Innovation Reduces Impacts on Sage Grouse and Big Game,” noted that a single horizontal well now takes the place of 8 to 16 vertical wells, and as many as 32 directionally drilled wells can be clustered on one pad.

Horizontal development can be accomplished with as few as one or two well pads per square mile, far below the density that affects big game migration and sage-grouse mating areas, it added.

“As responsible stewards of the land, oil and gas companies actively work to protect wildlife,” said Kathleen Sgamma, WEA vice-president of government affairs. “Companies now are able to do more with less to minimize impacts on species and the landscapes they depend upon. Wildlife is truly gaining ground.”

Esther Wagner, PAW vice-president for public lands, said, “Industry plays an instrumental role in helping to fund and develop the science that is guiding the policy in Wyoming to manage big game migration corridors and to safeguard valuable wildlife resources for future generations. Responsible oil and gas development and robust wildlife populations can and do coexist.”

The groups released their report the same day western US governors, as their 2016 meeting concluded in Jackson Hole, issued a policy statement calling for more cooperation and coordination between federal and state governments in enforcing the Endangered Species Act (OGJ Online, June 15, 2016).

Contact Nick Snow at

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