Inside Aera
General Sep 25, 2017

Achieving regulatory success with ‘patience, hard work and perseverance’

Megan Silva (left) and Scott Corby work at the systematic daily improvement (SDI) board created to help address regulatory challenges.

Aera has received over 100 well stimulation treatment (WST) permits since last year. These permits are for hydraulic fracturing and come with economically reasonable conditions and predictable cycle times. This would not have been achieved without Aera collaborating and educating state agencies on the process.

It’s just one of several successes Aera has achieved since senior leaders launched a concerted effort last year to make headway with the regulatory process. Their weekly “regulatory huddle” identifies key roadblocks, coordinates departmental efforts and applies systematic daily improvement (SDI) methodology to achieve results.

“Our efforts have taken patience, hard work and perseverance, and there is still more work to be done,” said CEO Christina Sistrunk. “The process is expensive and requires more work and better coordination across the organization, but we are making progress.”

Other notable successes include:

  • In 2016, Kern County adopted a new ordinance for oil and gas production. It marked new ground for both the industry and local government, obliging both parties to cooperate to build the county’s first-ever permitting process.

For more than six months, a small Aera team worked in-house and with county staff to craft a feasible permit path for the industry. Today, Kern County permitting is stable with predictable cycle times.

  • In June 2017, California’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) approved an alternative method to verify mechanical integrity of Aera’s Belridge injection wells. “It took six months of education and discussion to get DOGGR comfortable with our data and engineering and willing to support Aera’s position,” said Scott Corby, vice president, environment, health and safety and a member of the regulatory huddle team. “Without that approval, Aera might have been forced to spend millions of dollars abandoning and re-drilling wells.”
  • Aera resolved questions and concerns with state regulatory agencies that were withholding Cymric well work permits.
  • Aera successfully negotiated an “incidental take permit” for threatened and endangered species for locations at Belridge. Worried that the approval process would take too long, Aera worked with regulatory agencies to identify a timely solution.

The environmental, operations, technical, legal, IT, government and public affairs departments collaborated to produce solutions that resulted in Aera receiving the permits needed to deliver the business plan.

“It’s impressive to see the entire organization rise to the challenge,” said Megan Silva, environmental manager.

The huddle discussions continue to focus on the aquifer exemption process, which has proven to be complex and difficult. With a looming “cease of injection” regulatory deadline in February 2017, Aera joined several industry organizations in requesting a stay, or temporary suspension, of the order. The court ruled in the industry’s favor, allowing oil and gas producers to continue operating while regulatory agency review of the technical data supporting the aquifer exemptions is underway.

“Receiving the stay was critical,” said Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lynne Carrithers, also a member of the regulatory huddle. “Permitted injection projects are continuing while the agencies review the extensive amount of technical data required for the process.”

We live our safety motto that “Every day, everybody goes home alive and well!” / DID YOU KNOW? Aera Energy has been honored with the North American Maintenance Excellence Award and the AME Manufacturing Excellence Award.

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