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BP, Shell, Barrett Called 'Best' Wyoming Operators by Enviro Group

BP plc, Royal Dutch Shell and Bill Barrett Corp. are considered the "best" oil and natural gas production companies operating in Wyoming based on their environmental performance, according to a conservation group.

The Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (BCA) issued a scorecard of what it considers to be the best and worst producers operating in the state. Companies rated in the "best" category were "those that are doing the most to move the industry toward minimizing the impacts of drilling" on state land and wildlife, the alliance stated.

"Since the Bureau of Land Management is leaving oil and gas management to industry officials, the oil and gas companies who get the plaudits in this scorecard deserve credit for implementing environmentally superior advancements even though they're not being required by the government agencies," said BCA wildlife biologist Erik Molvar. "Even if they're not always perfect environmental stewards, these are the companies that are proving that environmentally sound practices can work even as other companies are saying it can't be done."

BP, a major player in the Wamsutter Field in Wyoming, was named the "best" operator in Wyoming after drilling up to eight wells from a single pad and "setting a standard for full-field development without excessively dense wellpads," BCA noted. All of BP's Jonah Field wells so far have been drilled directionally, BCA noted. The London-based producer "also is a leader in 'green completions,' in which drilling is wrapped up without the wasteful venting of large quantities of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere."

Shell, a major player on the Pinedale Anticline of Wyoming, was the second-leading producer by BCA's standards after drilling up to 32 wells directionally from a single pad. The producer also has implemented remote-controlled data gathering and pipelines to transport liquid byproducts from the field, "both of which reduce (but don't eliminate) the amount of truck traffic in an area that is crucial winter range for mule deer and important nesting habitat for sage grouse. While these key habitats are certainly suffering from the impacts, conditions would be a lot worse with old-style vertical drilling."

Denver-based Barrett achieved third place after settling an appeal with BCA on its 233-well Big Porcupine coalbed methane project in the Thunder Basin National Grassland of the state. The settlement committed Barrett to shift facilities away from prairie dog colonies and to seasonally close access roads in sensitive sage grouse and raptor nesting habitat. Under the agreement, wells would be visited only in emergency circumstances during the nesting season, and even then repair teams would travel by bicycle. Barrett settlements also yielded money directed by BCA to black-footed ferret reintroduction and research on prairie stream fishes in the Thunder Basin and sage grouse habitat quality in the Bighorn Basin, BCA noted.

BCA rated producers in the "worst" category by scoring them on the amount of "overall damage they are doing to Wyoming's lands and wildlife at the statewide scale." Small companies engaging in bad practices were overshadowed by larger players doing damage on a much bigger scale, aid BCA.

"The companies that made the 'worst' list conduct their operations with little, if any, regard to important resources like wildlife and water quality," said Molvar. "The actions of these companies and others like them are giving the industry as a whole a bad reputation."

The worst performing producers in Wyoming, by BCA standards, were EnCana Corp., Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Yates Petroleum. A "dishonorable mention" was given to Windsor Energy LLC.

"Overall, the oil and gas industry still has a long way to go to live up to the potential of new technologies that could allow drilling and conservation to coexist in the same space," said Molvar. "Technological advances in drilling makes this an attainable goal, but the Bureau of Land Management is doing little to require the use of these best management practices."

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