What I Learned From a Major Oil and Gas Company

I think it’s safe to say that “fracking” is a controversial word.  Countries—and one U.S. state—have banned the practice, and a former presidential candidate made a national fracking ban part of his platform.

The impacts of fracking continue to be a subject of study, debate, protest, and division here in Pennsylvania, nationally, and around the world.

With climate disruption unfolding and new studies coming out frequently, the situation is not likely to improve soon.

Unless something changes.

About four years ago, during my previous stint in the consulting world, I delivered a speech in Washington D.C. about the role of science and technology in mitigating risk in unconventional natural gas development.  One of the technological advances that I argued for in that speech was the development of waterless, chemical-free methods to develop shale gas resources.

A few months later, along with two colleagues, I was invited to North American headquarters of a major oil and gas exploration and production company to talk about their interest in waterless fracking.  And how, perhaps, we could help them achieve that lofty ambition.

In determining whether—or how—we could help, my colleagues and I interviewed senior managers from across the company and around the globe. These included folks who were in charge of operations, production, research and development, regulatory affairs, exploration, technology development, and more.

To make a long story short, we didn’t get the consulting contract with this company, but we did get a valuable education.

That education was about how natural gas development decisions are made by one of the world’s largest  exploration and production companies. 

It was also about how new technologies and better practices are evaluated.  Or not.

The lessons we learned spurred us to think about:

  • How internal company decision-making could be modified to achieve more sustainable outcomes in unconventional natural gas development.
  • How to reduce companies’ costs and risks while reducing risks to water, air, public health, natural resources, and climate.
  • How to create a very bottom line-oriented approach to reconciling both society’s and industry’s goals.
  • How to make the business case for sustainable hydraulic fracturing.

I wrote about this in a new book that I discussed in this post.

And I’ll be delivering a public lecture: The Business Case for Sustainable Hydraulic Fracturing on Monday, November 7 at 5:30PM at the Kleinman Center.

Please join me.

John Quigley

Senior Fellow, Kleinman Center
John Quigley is a senior fellow at the Kleinman Center and previously served on the Center’s Advisory Board. He served as Secretary of the PA Department of Environmental Protection and of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.