SM Energy complies with air quality standards issued by each regulatory body with jurisdiction over our operating areas. These standards include EPA’s New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) to regulate air emissions from oil and gas sources. SM Energy utilizes a variety of technologies to help ensure that we meet the regulatory requirements. In 2017, SM Energy’s total CO2 equivalent GHG emissions reported to the EPA, in accordance with EPA’s reporting requirements, were approximately 433 thousand metric tons.
We understand the importance of respecting the land on which we operate. We work with our landowners, neighbors and local community leaders, some of our most important stakeholders, before we begin any operation to ensure the proper planning of well site locations, service roads and pipeline routes. We are thoughtful about where we build our facilities and how we conduct our operations. Where feasible, we utilize multi-well pads to help minimize the surface footprint of our operations.
We know the best way to minimize any impact from spills is to take steps to prevent spills from occurring in the first instance, so we design and maintain our facilities to prevent spills and in the event of a spill, contain all fluids on location. We maintain Emergency Response Plans to allow for prompt and efficient response to various types of emergency scenarios if needed. We perform drills annually to test the effectiveness of the plans and include local first responders when they are available.
Protecting the environment and being a good steward also means protecting and conserving water and other natural resources. We actively take steps to identify and utilize new technologies to help us use water resources wisely, recycle water where reasonable, and minimize the amount of water needed for our operations.
We design our operations and facilities to stringent specifications to better protect groundwater and other resources, and as a result, we meet and often exceed the requirements established by regulatory agencies. Drinking water aquifers (permeable rock containing groundwater) generally are located at relatively shallow levels. The oil and gas bearing rock formations that we target for production are located between 4,000 and 14,000 feet below the surface, well below the aquifers, often at least a mile or more beneath a thick layer of solid, impermeable rock.
We construct our oil and natural gas wells in compliance with applicable regulations and well-developed industry standards. Our wells are constructed with multiple layers of steel piping, called “casing,” that is cemented into place to provide a barrier between our drilling or production activities and groundwater. The cement must meet certain strength and quality criteria and extends from the depth of the casing back to the surface.
We separate flowback and produced water from produced hydrocarbons and temporarily store this water in above ground tanks. The water tanks and oil storage tanks are located within secondary containment barriers onsite. The water is then either recycled or disposed of at a permitted disposal site. We do not send any flowback or produced water to municipal treatment facilities.
We have developed a baseline water sampling program that tests water from nearby groundwater wells and surface water bodies prior to beginning operations in a new area. Qualified third-party consultants collect water samples, and then accredited third-party laboratories perform baseline evaluations that serve as a reference measurement for later comparison, as our operations develop.