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FAQ’s: Question and Answers Regarding the Rockies

What is the energy potential of the Rockies?

The Rockies currently supply about 22 percent of the nation’s natural gas, or nearly five trillion cubic feet (Tcf) annually. More important, they contain enough technically recoverable natural gas to satisfy all current (2006) residential needs for nearly 50 years and more than one fourth of all technically recoverable gas in the lower-48 states (on- and off-shore). [BLM EPCAIII and MMS] By 2025, the Rocky Mountains could be providing the nation with as much natural gas as the Gulf of Mexico, a traditional workhorse of U.S. natural gas production.


Why is natural gas development so important?

Natural gas is a very clean burning fuel, low in emissions of traditional pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, and lowest in greenhouse gas emissions associated with global warming. It is the preferred fuel for new electricity generation. It is used for heating and cooling homes, for cooking, and for chemicals that are used to make everything from modern medicines to shoes, fertilizers and clothing. Natural gas is plentiful in the U.S. We meet 84 percent of our requirements with domestically produced gas, and most of the rest (15 percent) comes from Canada.


Will developing the Rockies’ natural gas resources make natural gas cheaper?

Increased access to Rockies and other U.S. natural gas would increase gas supply and help provide more affordable gas to U.S. consumers. Domestic natural gas production has been flat for a decade. The nation has met increased demand primarily by importing more natural gas from Canada, but in recent years supplies have tightened, forcing up the cost of natural gas. Absent new natural gas supplies, the current tight supply/demand balance is likely to continue, keeping consumer costs high.


What are energy producers doing to help preserve the environment?

Oil and natural gas companies have the advanced technology and know-how to protect the land during development. They produce oil and natural gas with minimal surface presence, and when work is completed, wells are closed and the land is restored as closely as possible to original conditions. Moreover, development only occurs once government and industry agree on how wildlife, water supplies, and sites with historical or archeological significance will be protected. Government agencies at the federal, state and local levels oversee development operations.


In what other ways are energy producers giving back to the communities where they operate?

Companies work to ensure that local communities are fully informed on their operations, and that local concerns are understood and addressed. Company personnel live and work there and are active in local schools, civic and community groups, and local business organizations. Many companies contribute to local environmental, educational, and cultural programs and activities.


How can we verify your claims about environmental stewardship?

Oil and natural gas companies have many years of experience in finding and developing oil and gas resources in sensitive environments, in the Rockies, in the Arctic and offshore. They have compiled an outstanding record of protecting the ecology and wildlife. Between 1990 and 2005, the oil and natural gas exploration and production industry invested $28.2 billion in environmental expenditures…. [API, Environmental Expenditures by the U.S. Oil and Natural Gas Industry, 2007]

Federal, state and local environmental agencies provide extensive oversight over these operations and can verify that companies have provided effective environmental stewardship. Moreover, operations are monitored closely by state and local officials, environmental organizations, the news media, and private citizens.  Any failure to provide effective environmental stewardship would be immediately apparent.


The energy industry is getting record high prices for energy – why should we allow more development, which depletes our resources faster?

Domestic oil and gas resources take years to find and develop; it is not a matter of turning on a faucet. The potentially vast resources of the Rockies represent our future and efforts to restrict exploring for and developing those resources will limit future economic growth, resulting in higher consumer costs. While fuel prices are high this year, oil and natural gas industry profit margins are very much in line with those of other industries – and often they are lower. In 2007, the average profit margins of the oil industry were 8.3 cents on the dollar, one cent higher than that of all U.S. industry.


Doesn’t energy development have a permanent effect on the land and the water supply?

The U.S. oil and natural gas industry relies on state-of-the-art technology to protect the environment and wildlife. The industry has developed sophisticated discovery technologies – like 3-D seismic imaging and global satellite positioning – to pinpoint potential oil and natural gas deposits long before production occurs. With these technologies, the amount of surface land affected is dramatically reduced. Directional and horizontal drilling technologies result in more efficient production operations with fewer wells, and less waste (65 percent less for the same amount of reserve additions).


What happens to these areas once all of the resources are used up?

Energy companies support and comply with federal and state regulations that require the land to be restored as closely as possible to its state before operations began. Moreover, the actual surface area affected by operations has been dramatically reduced in recent years through the industry’s use of state-of-the-art technology, including directional drilling which allows many wells to be drilled from a single location.


I’ve heard that energy development destroys wildlife habitat. Is this true?

Oil and gas operations have proven to be compatible with wildlife.  Development occurs only after government and industry (with community input) agree on how best to safeguard wildlife and the environment. Companies have set aside land for wildlife, adjusted certain operations to avoid mating seasons, and moved equipment and wells to accommodate wildlife.


It’s one thing to set up a drilling rig, but what about road-building, miles of pipelines and construction equipment? Won’t this ruin our landscapes?

While pipelines and roads are needed, energy companies work hard to minimize the surface presence of their operations. They routinely use an access corridor, such as a road, for multiple purposes including pipelines. An average well site is 30 percent of the size it was in 1970, and, through technology advances, an average well can reach over 60 times more area below the surface.


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