CLARKSBURG — Oil and natural gas have been produced in West Virginia since the early 1800s, when drillers looking for salt brine first discovered the resources along the Kanawha River near present-day Malden.
Over 100 years later, the oil and gas industry has risen to become one of the primary drivers of the state’s economy and a major force behind the development of new technologies, practices and innovations.
The successful implementation of these new technologies is not only increasing the productivity of producers, but they are also reducing the overall environmental impact of projects and creating benefits for other industries.
Al Schopp, regional senior vice president of Antero Resources, said his company is always looking ahead and keeping an eye on the most recent developments relevant to the industry.
“Cutting-edge technological advancements continue to drive natural gas development efficiencies, cost savings, as well as heightened environmental and worker safety,” he said. “Energy producers like Antero, along with the locally-based supply chain service providers that we work with, are focused on further raising the operational bar.”
The latest advancements in drilling technology recently allowed Antero to reach an important milestone, Schopp said.
“We’re drilling longer laterals faster than ever. In fact, just recently Antero drilled 10,453 feet of lateral length in a 24-hour period, which may be a new world record,” he said. “Steerable drilling tools continue to get better and more precise by the day. It’s a technology that keeps evolving and responding as laterals get longer.”
While drilling longer laterals obviously increases production volume, it also produces numerous other benefits as well, Schopp said.
“This is good for business, given the commodity dynamics, and creates important community and environmental benefits,” he said. “The longer the lateral and shorter the period to drill reduces aboveground land disturbances, along with temporary truck traffic.”
The company relies on the latest breakthroughs throughout its operations, not just out at its well sites, Schopp said.
“Among other critical technology-enabled advancements, we’re leveraging well performance data analytics to make decisions more nimbly than ever before,” he said. “And drone technology keeps improving to optimize facility designs.
Antero sees being an industry leader as part of its overall mission, Schopp said.
“As an industry made up of forward-looking engineers and problem solvers, we’re continuously focused on solutions that make our work even safer, more protective of our environment and even more cost-effective,” he said.
Samantha Norris, a communications specialist with Dominion Energy, said innovation is “front and center” for the company’s operations.
“We don’t just want to keep up with the latest innovation and technology, we’re looking to lead the industry and etch innovation into the DNA of our culture,” she said. “From the newest employee to our CEO, everyone is expected to have an innovative mindset. That’s why we recently adopted “Embrace Change” as a new core value to build a culture based on new ideas and continuous innovation. Embracing change also means attracting diverse talent because those unique experiences bring new ideas and fresh thinking to the table.”
Dominion has also adopted a comprehensive approach to clean energy, something it believes is vital to success in the modern world, Norris said.
“We’re reducing our own carbon footprint by shifting to clean energy technologies like solar, wind and natural gas. Our shift from coal to clean energy has cut our carbon emissions in half over the last decade, and we’re now accelerating that progress with plans for the largest offshore wind project in the nation off the coast of Virginia,” she said. “We’re also leading the industry in methane emissions reductions from our gas infrastructure, and we’re on track to cut emissions in half over the next decade. These are truly historic achievements, but we’re determined to go much further.”
These initiatives are all in service of being good corporate citizens and better serving their customer base, Norris said.
“The expectations of our customers and our employees are constantly changing. If we’re going to attract the most talented workforce and provide the level of service our customers expect, we need to embrace that change and stay ahead of the curve,” she said. “Our employees, our customers and society as a whole wants cleaner energy, and they expect us to be good stewards of the environment. We have to deliver on that, and we have to embrace technological innovation to achieve it. We’re passionate about serving our customers, motivating our employees and protecting the environment and innovation is making it happen every single day.”