Key Takeaways from Drilling Rig Tour

by Tim Wigley, President on June 30, 2016 - 11:33am

The staff of Western Energy Alliance recently went on a rig tour in Weld County courtesy of PDC Energy. I love getting out into the field and seeing an operation firsthand and meeting the hardworking men and women working on the front lines. In all of our regulatory and congressional activities, sometimes it’s easy to take for granted what happens on the ground, and rig tours are an excellent way to increase knowledge of the challenges companies face daily.

The thing that amazes me the most when I go on a rig tour is the technology used in the process. If people could see for themselves the amazing innovation that it takes to drill and the care for the environment and residents, the on-going regulatory battle over oil and natural gas development would certainly be diminished. 

The PDC team in Weld County offered us a detailed tour. We got to see the crew in full action as they began drilling the first well on that particular site. As we talked with the “company man” in charge of the operation and walked around the rig and pumpers, these are just a few key takeaways I think are important to share:

Culture of safety – The focus on safety has permeated from workers in the field up through the staff at the office. PDC employees remind each other to “have a safe day” as a regular, routine greeting. In the field, the well pad was organized, clean and free of debris that could potentially harm employees. Equipment not in use was securely stored and kept at a distance.

On the rig, innovation in drilling technology has reduced the number of deckhands needed. There were only a few men on the floor operating the machinery feeding the drill pipe, where in the past more hands were needed. The rig engine was powered by natural gas, which operates with much lower emissions than diesel and means cleaner air for people working on the well and a cleaner environment overall.

Rapid rate of work – Only three weeks before our tour, the well pad looked like the farmland that surrounded it. In a short time, they prepped the site and brought in the equipment needed for drilling.  We were there as drilling started on the first of eight wells on the pad. The wells will be placed 15 feet apart and drilled to a depth of over 7,000 feet with two-mile laterals. Because of innovation and improvements in efficiency, it will only take about 10 days to drill each horizontal well.

As we recently announced in our Gaining Ground report, advances in drilling reduce surface disturbance by 70% compared to vertical drilling. The significance of that was apparent standing on a compact well pad with farmland all around.

Community involvement Oil and natural gas companies play a vital role in communities across the West. PDC was founded in 1969 in Bridgeport, West Virginia, and for nearly five decades has operated in that region. PDC started with one employee in Colorado in 1999. With the shale boom in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, it has expanded to 370 employees and moved its headquarters to downtown Denver. PDC contributes to local schools, non-profit groups, schools and the community at large.

One of the greatest assets for the industry is frontline employees. They live and work in the local communities where development occurs. Their kids attend the schools and play on the local sports teams. They’re also a trustworthy source of information about fracking and our industry; when oil and natural gas workers talk about their jobs and how much care goes into daily operations, friends and neighbors listen. In turn, it’s encouraging to see how communities where our industry operates—places like Kersey, Colorado—appreciate our industry. We were an hour outside of Denver, but it felt like small-town America. Residents in the area understand the valuable economic and civic contributions oil and natural gas production brings.

I was grateful for the opportunity to take this rig tour and meet the men and women on the ground They’re working hard to produce energy our country depends on and do so in a safe, responsible way.

I encourage anybody who has questions about oil and natural gas development to meet and talk with the people working in the field. I guarantee you’ll walk away with an appreciation for the job they do and the manner in which they do it. Plus, they’re some of the friendliest people you can talk with. Feel free to contact us at Western Energy Alliance for these types of opportunities.