Energy firm earns award for natural gas-fueled rig

An energy company has earned statewide recognition for its efforts to reduce air emissions by fueling a drilling rig in Western Colorado with natural gas.

WPX Energy was among the winners of four awards presented by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission that recognize operations in the state during 2013.

WPX Energy won an award for technological innovation for fueling its Aztec 1000 drilling rig in the Piceance Basin with natural gas produced on location.

“Using natural gas as a fuel source is better for the environment and helps reduce costs,” said Jeff Cutler, Piceance Basin drilling manager for WPX Energy.

Compared to diesel, natural gas results in a 24 percent reduction in total air emissions and an 80 percent reduction in ozone-forming compounds, Cutler said.

During initial operations in 2013, the rig reduced fuel consumption by 85 percent and saved WPX Energy more than $7,000 a day in fuel costs, he said. Since less fuel was required, truck traffic to transport diesel also was reduced and resulted in less dust, noise and impacts to roadways.

WPX supplied natural gas for the rig from production at existing wells pads, Cutler said. “Using existing well pads provides a direct fuel source, reduces additional surface disturbance and takes advantage of the pipelines and infrastructure that are already in place.”

The Aztec 1000 rig is equipped with four Jenbacher J-320 engines that provide the power to drill vertical and horizontal wells to depths between 8,000 and 15,000 feet.

Based on the results of powering one drilling rig with natural gas, WPX Energy converted six other rigs in Western Colorado to dual-fuel engines that use a combination of natural gas and diesel.

The latest award is the 16th WPX Energy has received from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. The agency also has recognized the company for best practices; reclamation; and water management, protection and recycling.

Over the past decade, WPX Energy has invested more than $7.5 billion to develop holdings in Western Colorado. The company expects to spend more than $475 million in Colorado this year.