Main content | back to top
Keeping the natural balance
Our operations to produce tightly trapped gas include very different environments, such as the Rocky Mountains of the USA and the Ordos Basin in China. For each location we use a range of approaches to limit the effects of our operations on people, wildlife and the landscape.
While some of the tight and shale gas we produce is in sparsely populated areas, we also operate near towns and villages. Wherever we work, we are sensitive to the concerns of local people and the need to protect the local environment. As part of our approach we have developed a set of global operating principles, designed to help limit the impact of our activities.
We also aim to share benefits of our operations. Together with the University of Texas at San Antonio, for example, we are developing a training programme to help boost the skills of small business owners and improve economic development in the Eagle Ford community.
When companies produce natural gas it is often accompanied by water that is trapped in the rock or sand with the gas.
At our Pinedale gas operation in Wyoming, USA, for example we are gathering the water produced with the gas, and are able to reuse some of it in the hydraulic fracturing process that cracks open the tight sand formation holding the gas.
We also recycle some of the treated fracturing water. This reduces the fresh water we need to use by up to 75%.
At our Changbei operations in China we reuse water wherever possible – in drilling and cleaning, for example – to limit our fresh-water use. At Groundbirch in Canada under an agreement with the City of Dawson Creek we have supported the construction of a water recycling plant for the city.
The plant will treat sewage and other waste water to then be piped for reuse by Shell. This avoids the need to draw on fresh water and, without the need to ship water in, cuts truck journeys by 3,000 km a year.
The local government also uses some of the water to, for example, clean roads and water sports fields, as well as selling some to industry.
Watch the video
Aimee Davison, Shell Natural Resource Advisor, talks about her personal interest in Pinedale and describes the work Shell is doing to protect biodiversity and restore the land to its natural state.
Our Pinedale operations take place in an area where ranchers on horseback still move large herds of cattle. Pronghorn, mule deer and sage grouse are common.
A vast blanket of sage brush covers the land, with desert vegetation blending into wetlands and rivers. Some of the wildlife relies on the sage brush for food and cover from predators.
Shell initiated studies of sage grouse and pronghorn. We continue to work with other local operators to support wider research and today our combined contribution exceeds $4.9 million.
We try to avoid disturbing the natural habitat as we develop the field, allowing local wildlife to thrive and leaving open migration corridors.
“This project aims to balance the needs of the animals with the need to develop natural gas,” says Art Reese, former Director of Federal Land Policy for the Wyoming Governor and now a Shell advisor on wildlife land management at Pinedale.
At Changbei, in Shaanxi province of northern China, we work with the forestry department to help protect biodiversity in the Yulin area. We supported in particular a scientific study of the relict gull to develop effective conservation methods.
At Pinedale we are working to lower the emissions from our operations. Shell has adapted catalyst technology used in diesel cars and power plants to work efficiently on a drilling rig in the harsh Wyoming winters where temperatures can plummet to -37°C (-34.6°F ).
“We’re the first to apply this technology to drilling rigs, as far as I know,” says Jim. “It’s exciting to see that we’re changing the industry.”
The catalyst reduces local emissions from the drill rig engines by more than 90%. We have limited dust and vehicle emissions by reusing water on site, rather than bringing it on site in trucks.
In 2009, the Bureau of Land Management gave Shell and partners Ultra and QEP Energy an award for air quality efforts.
Watch the video:
Jim Sewell, Shell Senior Environmental Engineer, explains how Shell is using technology to reduce local emissions at its tight gas operations in Pinedale.
Restoring the land
Shell helped to develop a new seed mix to restore native plants for sage grouse and big game.
Our advanced drilling techniques already limit the number of wells we need to drill, lowering our impact on the environment. But we also take steps to restore the land to match its surroundings once a drilling location is complete.
At Pinedale, we take steps to restore the land once a drilling location is complete. We worked with the Bureau of Land Management to improve restoration practices. This included planting a mix of seed to match the surroundings and more quickly reintroduce sage brush, the staple diet of sage grouse pronghorn and mule deer.