responsibly developing natural gas in the piceance basin
This summer, Chevron employee Craig Tysse spotted numerous young red-tail and Cooper hawks working their way out of nests in groves of aspen and cottonwood trees and learning how to hunt and survive on their own. Chevron crews in northwestern Colorado's Piceance Basin are careful to not disturb the raptors' nests. To Tysse and his colleagues, the juvenile hawks are among many positive signs of the company's efforts to be a proactive steward of the environment and a good corporate citizen.
Chevron is improving habitats in the Piceance, protecting winter forage for mule deer (pictured) and elk.
Chevron is developing significant gas resources in the Piceance Basin, which is expected to become one of the top gas-producing areas in the United States in the years ahead. The operations are situated in the Clear Creek Valley, a remote half-mile-wide area stretching 15 miles replete with box canyons, creeks and streams.
The Piceance project was one of the first in North America to use the Environmental, Social and Health Impact Assessment process. "From the start of our project in 2006, we have focused on protecting the environment and being a responsible neighbor," said Michael DeBerry, Rocky Mountain Area manager. "Every aspect of our work — from operations to water and land conservation to habitat management and community engagement — is designed to have a smaller footprint on this area."
Preserving Land Through Innovation
To develop the Piceance's technically challenging reservoirs while minimizing impacts on the environment, Chevron implemented an innovative drilling strategy.
"To reduce the Piceance project's footprint, we drill up to 24 wells from each surface drill pad. At other onshore U.S. locations, wells typically are drilled on single well pads," said Martin Knauss, drilling superintendent. "By using one rig to drill multiple directional wells in the Piceance, we have fewer trucks on the road, which improves our safety performance and further decreases our impact on the area. And having fewer roads associated with our drill pads reduces our footprint and minimizes disturbance of wildlife habitat."
Through the second quarter of 2010, Chevron has built nine well pads and three more are under construction. The site selection for the central gas production facility also reflects the company's concern for the environment.
"To minimize our land use in the valley, we placed the plant close to the edges of the canyon walls," Knauss said. "By positioning the facility this way, we preserved land in the valley that historically has served as a hay meadow for ranchers as well as a wildlife corridor. Frankly, it would have been easier and less expensive to build the plant in the valley. But that would not have reflected our Chevron Way values, so we made the extra effort and investment to carefully select the facility's location."
Supporting Piceance's Biodiversity
Conserving water in the semi-arid Piceance also is a top priority.
"We are mindful of how precious this area's water supply is and look for ways to minimize our water use," said Richard Carroll, waste and water specialist. "For instance, Chevron implemented a closed-loop process where water is reclaimed from mud used during drilling. We also reuse produced water in our fracturing operations to help unlock the Piceance's tight rock formations. These processes reduce our freshwater usage significantly."
Chevron's re-vegetation activities also support the Piceance's biodiversity. "Invasive plant species are crowding out indigenous grasses that support local wildlife," said Carroll. "To counter this, we initiated a program to restore disturbed areas with native plant seedlings, which help stabilize the land and control erosion."
Balancing Wildlife and Community
Chevron's efforts to preserve the Piceance's ecosystem are contributing to improved habitats.
"The valley is home to abundant wildlife, such as elk, mule deer, black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, sage grouse, and wild turkeys," said Tysse. "Our ranch management practices encompass numerous projects to support local wildlife, including protected nesting areas for raptors and winter forage for elk and deer. We are already seeing encouraging results from these efforts, such as healthier, larger herds dispersed throughout the valleys during the winter."
Tysse works closely with ranchers who lease some of Chevron's Piceance landholdings for cattle and other agricultural purposes. "We have an active engagement program with ranchers and the community," he said. "We consult with them and seek to balance their needs with our operations."
"Chevron works diligently to be respectful of this unique area, community and wildlife and conduct our operations in a responsible manner," said DeBerry. "By being good stewards of the environment and a good corporate neighbor, we demonstrate that we do the right thing, not because we are required to, but because we care."
Updated: October 2010
Published: October 2010