Methane Emissions Down 47% Locally

A new report shows that methane emissions from oil and natural gas development continue to decline in many of the top basins across the United States even as oil and gas production continues to increase.

The findings are based on data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program for the years 2011-2016.

Locally, methane emissions have fallen by 47 percent in the San Juan Basin since 2011, from 8.6 mmt to 4.6 mmt (million metric tons).

In fact, methane emissions are declining everywhere WPX operates, including the Permian Basin in southeastern New Mexico and the Williston Basin in North Dakota.

So how’s this possible? In addition to investing in dedicated in-house staff who specialize in air quality and environmental protection, here are a couple steps we’ve taken:

– voluntary green completions on oil wells to minimize vented gas and only flare gas when conditions are not amenable for sales (e.g., gas quality)

– monthly inspections are being conducted on closed-vent systems used to route emissions from tanks to vapor recovery units and emission control devices

– our San Juan facilities utilize enclosed combustors, flares, vapor recovery towers and vapor recovery units. 

– our San Juan SCADA systems monitor and have an alarm for tank pressures that indicate possible venting so that repairs can be made as quickly as possible.

You can learn more about our comprehensive methane emissions management program in our guide we published online.

WPX Sharpens Focus in San Juan Basin

Back when we started in the energy business, our entire focus was natural gas. It was pretty much that way for the better part of three decades.

Then we began to drill for oil in several regions with success. We also made a successful oil discovery right here in the San Juan Basin in 2013.

Since then, we’ve been “splitting” our time so to speak between both commodities here around Aztec and Farmington. That’s a lot of wells to manage and maintain, especially on the gas side.

The future of our company leans heavily loyal to oil. That’s why we’ve been selling nearly all of our gas-focused operations company-wide, including in the San Juan Basin.

We signed a deal in October to sell our local gas well operations for $169 million. That transaction is now complete, which makes 100% of our local focus on oil.

This is a win-win for the local economy and industry. In a nutshell, now there will be two companies investing in two assets vs. just one dividing its investments in two.

Our press release on our sale is available here.

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Maybe Neil Sedaka said it best circa 1975 with his  song “Breakin’ Up Is Hard to Do.”

Eight years after the song’s debut, WPX entered the San Juan Basin through an acquisition that brought us our very first natural gas wells.

That was obviously more than three decades ago. A few of those wells go back even further, pumping out natural gas for some 50 years.

That’s the kind of productivity this area is famous for. Don’t ever let anyone try to convince you otherwise. The San Juan Basin, pure and simple, is a prolific energy powerhouse.

That’s also why its bittersweet for WPX to part with those original natural gas operations that helped launch our company.

We recently agreed to sell those operations for $169 million, subject to typical closing conditions, as we continue to shift our business focus to oil.

The sale is expected to close before year-end. The Farmington Daily Times has a nice story about the transition process that’s underway as we speak.

Our office in Aztec will continue to run and develop our oil-focused operations in the southern part of the San Juan Basin where we made a discovery in 2013.

Most recently, those operations produced more than 10,000 barrels of oil per day in third-quarter 2017. Put another way, that’s more than 420,000 gallons of oil per day, or enough oil to fill-up roughly 23,000 cars and trucks per day.

Some of our current colleagues will be joining the purchasing company in the days ahead. That’s the really tough part. They’re more than co-workers. They’re good friends.

The purchasing company is excited about the potential to further develop the natural gas operations. That’s great news for the region and the economy since our investments at WPX have focused almost entirely on our oil development.

Having another party take over the natural gas operations is a means for bringing more money into the area. A representative for the purchaser was quoted in the Daily Times story as saying:

“This is going to be the most important thing to us as a company so we’ll be putting more capital to work (and) we’ll be putting more money there, which means more jobs.”

This transaction is just one in a series of more than a dozen deals WPX has made to sell natural gas operations to make further investments in oil.

Over the past few years, WPX also sold its natural gas operations in Texas, Wyoming, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

Saying Thank You

As our community begins the process of coping and healing from the tragedy at Aztec High School, we want to share the hope that comes with the holiday season.

For many of our friends and neighbors, this Christmas and New Year’s will be especially difficult as families deal with loss and others search for “normalcy” again.

It won’t ever be easy.  And it will understandably take a long, long time. But in the meantime, we take a second to recognize everyone who makes our company and our community great.

Any success we ever enjoy is a shared success that comes from the service and significant investments of time and talent from others.

This includes our business partners, service providers, contractors, rig crews, completion crews, Navajo allottes, local leaders and public servants.

Together, we’ll cope, heal, remember what matters most and look with courage to more joyous days ahead.

Standing With Affected Families

There are moments when hearts sink and time seems to stop. It happened here on Thursday not too far from our office in the small, close-knit community of Aztec.

According to published reports, two students lost their lives after a gunman entered Aztec High School. Police say the shooter is dead, as well.

We grieve for everyone affected by this tragedy – for those who suffered immeasurable loss and for the teachers, kids, administrators and emergency responders who now cope with the aftermath.

WPX employees have children who attend Aztec High School, and we have many neighbors and business partners whose children attend the school, too. We stand ready to help our friends heal.

WPX has been a part of this area for nearly 35 years. It’s a special place where people genuinely love and look out for each other. Our prayer is for the community’s comfort, courage and strength.

WPX Salutes Military Veterans

Here’s a special message from WPX CEO Rick Muncrief, who spent several years of his career living and working in the Farmington area. Pictured is WPX employee Dustin Wold who has survived two roadside bombs. 

Does this sound familiar – “thank you for your service?” I know I’ve said it to Veterans before, and quite honestly, I didn’t think about it too critically or wonder how it might be received. It just felt like the right and honorable thing to say. And I truly meant it.

But I got to thinking about it more after seeing this column published online by a retired Air Force colonel and Vietnam Veteran who spent more than six years in POW camps, solitary confinement or isolation. That’s more than 2,000 days of torture and trauma. Just think about the courage and endurance it took to sustain such suffering.

His comments are enlightening. I hope you’ll read the full version of his letter. In the meantime, here’s an excerpt:

“Our military is a mercenary force made up of 0.5% of the population and paid for by self-contented Americans – some of whom passively watch our flag disrespected by individuals earning millions more than those who go in harm’s way.

 “That self-contentment applies to civilians who say “thanks for your service” as uniformed servicemen pass by them in an airport. It does little. It may give a civilian 15 seconds of satisfaction to think that they made a meaningful impact on a soldier’s day, but a real impact would be saying “thank you for your sacrifice” or “because of you, America is safe.”

 After I heard that, I immediately started wondering if I’ve ever said “thanks for your service” in a casual way. Maybe we’re all guilty. And maybe the letter’s author would have been right in saying “self-centered” instead of “self-contented.” It’s really easy to get wrapped up in our own world while others are fighting for us a world away.

But here’s the good news. There’s no statute of limitations for declaring our gratitude to those who served AND sacrificed. And let’s be clear, all service involves sacrifice!

Talk with any Veteran and they’ll tell you their story. They’re all across the company at WPX in Aztec, Carlsbad, Killdeer, New Town and Tulsa. They’re mechanics, engineers, accountants, safety specialists and leaders.

Veterans, thank you for your sacrifice. You’re worthy of honor and respect beyond anything our words can ever express. You’re a hero because of how you gave of yourself to protect others, including me.”

New Mexico Among Top Energy States

New Mexico remains among the most prolific energy producers in the nation according to new data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The agency just released a report that ranks states by energy production. New Mexico ranks No. 6 in oil production and No. 8 in natural gas production.

That production generates nearly one-third of the revenues for New Mexico’s general fund, which supports schools, public safety and health care.

You can learn more about the importance of oil and natural gas production in the state here.

350 people attend energy expo

Support for oil development in the San Juan Basin remains strong, evidenced by the record turnout at a recent energy expo for Navajo allottees and the wider community.

More than 350 people attended “Energy Day” on June 15 at the Nageezi Chapter House, which was hosted by WPX and other local operators.

WPX’s Andrea Felix organized the event, anticipating the potential for 200-300 people. At the end of the day, the turnout was 20 percent higher.

“We’re very pleased with the response,” Andrea said. “Overall, we showcased nearly 20 booths where people could learn about everything from science to safety.”

The goal of the event was to provide a forum where people could visit first-hand with professionals who plan, design and drill oil wells. Lots of conversations even took place over hamburgers and hot dogs as people sat down together to eat lunch and talk shop.

Regulatory agencies and public officials were involved, too, and available to answer questions, including the Department of the Interior, the Federal Indian Minerals Office and the New Mexico State Land Office.

The most popular booth at the expo was staffed by Sr. Geoscientist Renee Wild (shown below) and Geophysicist Jennifer Kennedy.  Everyone seemed to be curious about the rocks at their table.

Expo2 WP

More precisely, those rocks are a silty sandstone from an actual WPX oil well in the West Lybrook unit. These rocks are where the oil is trapped. Fracturing the rock is what helps release the oil.

WPX obtained this “core sample” for further study and analysis from a vertical wellbore that reached some 4,500 feet (almost a mile) deep.  And yes, this is a sample of the real rock that contains oil. You can even smell traces of oil from it.

Kelly Swan, who leads the company’s communication and outreach programs, was there to learn himself, listening to story after story from attendees about their love for land and family.

“It’s interesting,” he said, “regardless of whether a person opposes or supports what we do, it essentially comes down to the same factors.

“Everyone we met with wants to protect their cultural lineage and advance their family heritage. For those who partner with us, they’re simply doing what their father or grandfather did years ago.

“Somewhere in their family history, someone signed a lease approving the installation of a pipeline or the drilling of an oil or gas well,” he added.

“Doing the same thing today in 2017, years later, is a way for them of preserving that legacy or providing for their family, just like their relatives before them.

“For us as a company, we want to understand where people are coming from and what they base their decisions on, pro or con. It’s our responsibility to continually learn everything we can from our partners. It’s one of the ways we can show respect,” Kelly said.

What if fracking went away?

Some people talk about wanting fracking to go away…forever. Their goal is to stop oil and gas development in favor of simply “keeping it in the ground.”

That mindset has even crept into the San Juan Basin and other energy-rich areas across the country where companies have invested millions and billions of dollars to partner with landowners and mineral owners to develop critical resources.

If successful, efforts to stop the extraction of fossil fuels over the next two decades could have a profound economic impact on the United States and the communities where energy production happens.

A new study actually looked at the costs and consequences of simply “keeping it in the ground.”

The study assumes a scenario including no new private, State, or Federal oil and natural gas leases; a complete ban on hydraulic fracturing; no new coal mines or expansion of existing mines; and no new energy infrastructure including pipelines.

The results, as one should expect, aren’t pretty.  The study found that families and the U.S. economy would suffer the most. Consider that:

  • Nearly 6 million million jobs would be lost
  • $11.8 trillion would be gone from the country’s gross domestic product
  • Families could pay $4,552 more in annual energy expenditures per household
  • The price of crude oil could go up by $40 per barrel
  • Retail electricity prices could go up by more than 50%

“Restrictive policies would take the United States back to an era of energy dependence – all based on the false idea that we must choose between energy self-sufficiency and environmental progress,” said Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute.

“Cutting U.S. oil and natural gas production wouldn’t magically reduce world energy demand,” said Gerard.

“But it could raise costs significantly for American families and manufacturers, profoundly damage the U.S. economy, diminish our geopolitical influence, and severely weaken our energy security.”

Now, more than ever, it’s vitally important to keep developing the vast amounts of oil and gas reserves that are literally right beneath our feet about a mile or so deep. What’s in the ground warms you in winter, cools you in summer and keeps your car on the go.

What the frack? We have answers

Sometimes, just hearing the word is enough to get people all worked up. But why? Hydraulic fracturing has been around since the 1940s. That’s right, oil and gas companies have used the technique for nearly 70 years now.

The process is used to create tiny holes in layers of rocks, shale or sandstone to free up oil and natural gas from where its been “trapped” for a long time. It’s sorta similar to “sand blasting,” except in this case the sand creates tiny holes (called fractures) instead of cleaning a surface.

Without fracking, there would be a lot less oil and gas in the marketplace – a LOT less. By most reasonable accounts, somewhere between 60-80% of today’s energy production wouldn’t even be possible….without fracking.

Just think of what you’d be paying to fill up your tank if 60-80% of the nation’s oil supply suddenly vanished. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to because fracking is a time-tested and totally proven process that’s safe, reliable and effective.

Despite what you may have heard, fracking doesn’t take place anywhere near shallow fresh water zones. Normally, somewhere between 4,000-8,000 feet (up to 1.5 miles) of solid impermeable rock separates those water sources from where fracking actually occurs, which is much, much deeper down in the earth.

WPX has compiled plenty of helpful information about fracking in a pretty comprehensive package.  So if you’re looking for answers about fracking, start by searching here.