Water and Ecological Impacts
At Patterson-UTI, we work hand in hand with our customers to minimize environmental impacts and ensure industry best practices when performing our operations. We strive to conduct our drilling and completion activities in a manner that protects the quality of ground and surface water and to minimize, to the extent within our operational control, water usage.
We require all employees to operate in a manner that is safe and protective of the environment. Our operations are monitored by Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) professionals with specialties in safety, industrial hygiene and environmental protection who utilize industry best practices to continually monitor and reduce our environmental impact.
We have created Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plans and adopted industry best practices to prevent and mitigate releases and spills of oil and other effluents even if not required by law. We require SPCC plans to be in place at every drilling and pressure pumping location. These plans are designed to prevent spills of oil and other effluents from reaching any navigable waters and to inform employees of the proper way to handle oil-based materials, inspect for leaks, respond appropriately to incidents and report spills.
Our contract drilling and pressure pumping businesses have developed their spill containment policies to meet or exceed all state requirements relating to spill containment in the states in which we operate. In our pressure pumping business, we and our customers use additional spill containment and matting to prevent or mitigate releases in areas where there is a greater potential for stakeholder impact due to environmental releases. In our contract drilling business, at all new well locations, we created and utilize rig site environmental checklists to identify any potential exposure to waterways, and we inspect the containment and best management practices in place to protect these waterways.
We also have engineered solutions that mitigate potential spills; for example, our newer drilling rig designs integrate advanced environmental spill control into the drill floor. This spill control consists of secondary containment that is integrated into the drill floor to prevent the leakage of drilling fluid, rainwater and other fluids into the ground. Nearly all of the fracturing spreads in our pressure pumping business use a fueling system that provides fuel directly from a fuel storage cell to the pump trucks to minimize on-site manual fueling activity and reduce spills. We utilize containment to minimize incidental release impacts to the environment.
Our drilling crews routinely conduct spill drills on location according to an established drill calendar. These drills include a spill scenario, where crews simulate control and response of the spill as well as procedures for notification of management. All locations have spill kits, which are routinely inspected, and employees trained to respond to spills.
We recognize the importance of safely and efficiently transferring fluids at our jobsites. We set guidelines for the responsible transfer and handling of hydrocarbons, including controlled fluid transfer policies. In our contract drilling business, the inspection and audit process at our jobsites includes an environmental assessment for any non-conformities as outlined in our Environmental Management System. Any spill, regardless of size or quantity, is required to be reported internally and investigated. In our pressure pumping business, we adhere to an incident management program that requires all releases from primary containment to be reported. Reporting on spills and investigating each incident gives our organization a better understanding of why a spill may have occurred and how to reduce the risk of a similar incident occurring in the future. Across our businesses, we had two reportable spills in 2020.
To reduce water consumption and impact to the environment, we installed recycling systems on our wash bays in five of our facilities where we maintain heavy equipment.
We seek to minimize, to the extent within our operational control, our water usage. Our estimated total water usage in 2020 at our Company-owned or leased facilities was approximately 52 thousand cubic meters. We currently have the ability to track actual metered water usage at 95% of our facilities. Accordingly, our estimated total water usage includes actual usage data for those tracked facilities, and estimated water usage for the remaining facilities. We are working to expand our water usage tracking to cover all of our facilities. Water used at well sites in activities such as drilling and pressure pumping is purchased and controlled by our customers, and is, therefore, outside of our reporting scope. This control over water consumption by our customers is a key limiting factor in our ability to reduce water consumption in our operations.
We have fluid containment policies and other processes and long-term initiatives in place to minimize our environmental footprint when setting up drilling and pressure pumping equipment at well sites.
MAXIMIZING RECYCLED WATER USE
Our pressure pumping business utilizes laboratory equipment to analyze the characteristics of recycled water. In particular, our labs test different friction reducers to maximize recycled water usage. We then formulate a solution that is designed to optimize friction reducer performance, so as to minimize the use of fresh water in wellsite operations.
Where operations may have a substantial impact on local animal and plant populations, we partner with our customers to create a plan to address this impact prior to the commencement of operations.
While many of these impacts are outside of our operational control, we work with our customers to comply with their biodiversity and other policies related to the protection of local wildlife. Many of our areas of operation have substantial wildlife populations, especially during particular months of the year. To mitigate the impacts to wildlife, we have trained employees on best practices for avoiding wildlife vehicle collisions. Additionally, when operating in sensitive areas, where possible, we have used power from local electric utility grids in place of hydrocarbon fuels to eliminate engine emissions and reduce noise. Our EcoCell™ technology allows us to eliminate one of the diesel generators on a rig, which can reduce emissions and noise in sensitive areas.