Anadarko, Noble launch campaign to tout fracking to wary Westerners

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Noble Energy have teamed up to tout the benefits of oil and gas development in Colorado, amid mounting opposition to hydraulic fracturing in the state.

The two Houston-area companies’ new social outreach effort, known as Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, is entering a fray over fracturing, the technique now being combined with horizontal drilling to unlock oil and gas from dense rock formations.

In a trio of radio advertisements, the group appeals to Coloradans’ unique spirit, casting the pursuit of oil and gas a mile underground as part of the state’s unofficial “think big, act bigger” motto — an attitude that drives residents to summit 14,000-foot mountain peaks, conquer challenging ski runs and brew tasty craft beers.

“Here, we go above and beyond on a daily basis,” says an announcer in one of the ads. “As we look to unlock the full oil and natural gas potential of our shale resources through fracking, we’ll do it the Colorado way.”

Battleground Colorado: New groups join battle over drilling on public lands

The PR push makes sense for Noble and Anadarko, whose North American oil and gas portfolios are full of Colorado assets. The independent energy companies are planning to sink $10 billion into continuing to develop the Wattenberg field, part of the Denver-Julesburg basin in eastern Colorado.

Although the centennial state is no stranger to oil and gas drilling — the Denver-Julesburg basin first began producing crude more than a century ago — Colorado is increasingly becoming a battleground on energy issues.

While the state’s regulation of hydraulic fracturing has been a model for other regions — and has been praised by federal officials — the drilling technique is drawing sharp scrutiny across the Rockies. At least two Colorado towns have banned hydraulic fracturing and a host of state bills aim to add new restrictions.

And recently, home-grown environmental groups have sprung up in the state to push for greater drilling restrictions, using the same kind of regionally focused appeals that Anadarko and Noble are trying now.

The latest effort aims to tackle the debate over hydraulic fracturing head on, with information about the well stimulation process that involves pumping water, sand and chemicals underground to free hydrocarbons from rock pores.

Jon Haubert, spokesman for Coloradans for Responsible Energy Development, said the group knows fracking has become a loaded buzzword in the debate over energy development.

“While (hydraulic fracturing) may be a non-controversial technique in the energy industry, it has become a target, intentionally misused, misrepresented and unfortunately substituted as a four-letter word by some,” Haubert said.

Big spender: Noble Energy looks to Colorado shale

Some environmentalists worry about the risks of contamination from surface spills of the hydraulic fracturing fluids briefly pumped underground at wells and the wastewater that flows out later, carrying naturally occurring radioactive materials along with other substances.

Generically, fracturing has come to represent the entire drilling process, if not all oil and gas production from dense shale, and it has drawn fresh scrutiny to the cementing of wells and the extent to which companies take precautions to keep hydrocarbons from migrating out of a well.

In response, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management is in the process of updating rules governing oil and gas drilling on public lands that haven’t been substantively revised since they were first developed three decades ago. The proposed mandates include new standards for the integrity of wells to ensure groundwater is isolated from fracturing fluids and flowing hydrocarbons, as well as requirements for water management plans.

Noble and Anadarko’s new initiative won’t focus on public policy and won’t be active in the regulatory arena. Haubert said the group’s core mission is to deliver information about fracturing and energy development directly to the general public, using social media, videos, ads and websites.

Scott Moore of The Woodlands-based Anadarko, and Ted Brown, of Houston’s Noble Energy, are the group’s founding directors.

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