Chevron exporting technology to minimize global footprint, water use

In Pennsylvanian oil and gas lands, Chevron has developed new technologies that cut deep into its environmental footprint and water usage, and the California oil giant wants to export those advances to the rest of the world.

Drilling activities hit places like Poland, where farm land is dense with small, 25-acre properties, much harder than spacious Texas and North Dakota, said Mike Koch, general manager of strategy development at Chevron, during an industry conference on Wednesday.

“What we do to the land there is much more impactful than it’s going to be in someplace outside of San Antonio, so we really need to be thinking about how we minimize that footprint,” said Koch,  a panelist during the Fourth World Shale Oil and Gas Summit & Exhibition at the Hilton Americas hotel in downtown Houston.

For its operations in Pennsylvania, Chevron has developed  large-scale bolted tanks that can hold 1 million gallons of water, but also can be moved quickly between hydraulic fracturing sites. The tanks replace massive pits drilled into the earth that the industry has used for decades, and they reduce the footprint of a drilling site by 50 percent, Koch said.

“Think about that Polish farmer,” he said. “We’re not going to take up half of his acreage with a drilling site. We’re going to set up these tanks.”

Technological advances in hydraulic fracturing — which releases oil and gas from shale and other tight rocks using high-pressure injections of water, sand and chemicals — have revolutionized U.S. oil and gas production.

Koch noted that on a per capita basis, water supplies in the U.S. have shrunk significantly since the 1950s. In Pennsylvania, Chevron is recycling all of its flow-back water and its drilling water, and is reusing 80 percent of the brine from producing wells.

“We don’t think that’s good enough,” he said. “It’s going to require the industry to be able to recycle 100 percent of that water.”

The oil and gas industry should start to treat water as a precious commodity, and to that end, Chevron is working with agencies and communities in central Europe to identify ways to protect the surface water, such as using lining for tanks, erosion controls, buffer zones, and other measures,  he said.

Water is “one of the big issues we’re going to see in the next decade,” he said.