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Water conservation is an essential component in our operations and in our sustainable development goals. Pioneer is taking a comprehensive approach to water conservation. We continue to pilot and evaluate various technologies for water conservation, including creating more efficient water transportation and storage methods to limit water loss.
We recognize fresh water is a valuable resource, and Pioneer is committed to innovative water stewardship. While there is no immediate, economically viable solution that completely eliminates the use of fresh water in the production of oil and natural gas, we continue to optimize the ways in which we manage our water resources.
In 2014 Pioneer created Pioneer Water Management, LLC (PWM), a dedicated subsidiary company focused on water conservation and providing non-fresh water supplies for use in our operations. While fresh water is currently used in Pioneer operations, several important PWM water conservation initiatives are aimed at Pioneer’s goal to sustainably reduce fresh water usage. These efforts include:
The amount of water we use varies by the well length, completion design and the geology of the formations targeted by each well. We measure oil and gas production in barrels of oil equivalent (BOE), and in 2015 Pioneer’s asset areas used 0.18 to 0.46 barrels of water per BOE expected from wells drilled that year. It’s helpful to convert this number into “water intensity” – gallons of water per million British thermal units (MMBTU) of energy. This helps to compare our water usage to that of other leading power sources. For example, in 2015, we used 1.16 to 3.17 gallons of water per MMBTU. A 2010 Harvard Kennedy School study found more water is consumed in the process of producing coal (1 to 8 gal/MMBTU) and corn-based ethanol (83 to 3,805 gal/MMBTU).
We understand how vital water is to any community. A 2012 Texas Water Development Board study performed by the University of Texas found that water used for shale gas accounts for less than one percent of all ground and surface water withdrawn statewide. Irrigation accounted for the largest portion of Texas’ water usage, which is a nationwide trend. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), agriculture accounts for approximately 80 percent of U.S. groundwater and surface water consumption.
As our industry drills longer lateral wells and increases the number of hydraulically fractured stages in each well, water use per well increases. However, more oil and gas is recovered from these wells, reducing overall water intensity. At Pioneer, we will continue to focus on water conservation and non-fresh water sourcing.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission recognized Pioneer as a 2012 Outstanding Operator for an innovative pipeline project in the Raton Basin. Pioneer implemented comprehensive, real-time pressure monitoring across more than 800 miles of its water gathering pipeline network. The real-time monitoring enables automated shutdown of wells when possible incidents are detected. Pioneer reduced pipeline water spills that year by more than 40 percent compared to its average rate over the prior three years.
The safety and success of the more than 60-year-old hydraulic fracturing process, as well as the benefits and costs of developing shale plays, have received increased public interest in the last decade. Pioneer has been at the forefront of both national and state efforts to ensure a transparent, timely industry response.
To help address questions about hydraulic fracturing, Pioneer joined industry peers and regulators to create the website FracFocus.org, a public registry of reported chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing.
Disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing is important. Pioneer actively supports this national initiative and complies with state regulations on reporting. We have disclosed on FracFocus.org the chemicals used in more than 3,370 wells we have drilled.
Oil and Gas Investor recognized Pioneer as Best Corporate Citizen for our participation in the regional watershed monitoring system in the Raton Basin. The Apishapa Watershed and Purgatoire Watershed monitoring programs were designed to ensure that water quality meets permit standards and intended uses. Real-time data gathered from these monitoring projects measure potential effects of coal bed methane operations discharges in each watershed and provide a scientific basis to support permitting decisions and regulatory options, as well as identify water quality management solutions.
Pioneer designs, builds and maintains its wells to protect groundwater quality during and after wellbore construction.
For decades, state regulators have imposed strict requirements for how oil and gas wells must be constructed. Each well must be encased in multiple layers of protective industrial-grade steel casing, which is surrounded by cement to create a secondary safeguard for underground fresh water. In 2015 we tested the surface casing integrity on 336 wells drilled.
This highly regulated safety system – and the thousands of feet of rock in between the hydrocarbon and fresh water zones – keeps oil and gas out of the fresh water and fresh water out of the oil and gas. For more than 70 years the industry has successfully drilled and produced wells using these drilling techniques.*
For additional protection, Pioneer installs pressure gauges during completions to monitor and test the space between the inner and outer well casing (annular space). In 2015, 100 percent of Pioneer’s completed wells were tested in this manner.
* Source: API Document on Hydraulic Fracturing Operations, Well Construction and Integrity Guidelines
Image courtesy of Oil and Gas in Texas: A Joint Association Education Message from the Texas Oil and Gas Industry.
Pioneer is committed to preserving our environmental heritage through safe, efficient and environmentally sound business practices and operations.
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Our team of air quality experts communicates and coordinates internal compliance with state and federal regulations, while operations departments develop emissions-reducing solutions.
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Pioneer employees work diligently to prevent spills, and we collaborate with regulators and landowners to minimize our footprint on the surface.