Energy companies like Aera have improved their operations in ways that past generations would hardly recognize
By Andy Anderson, senior vice president, operations
Anderson is responsible for Aera’s field producing operations, drilling, development as well as the company’s Center for Process Excellence. He oversees the performance of dozens of rigs, thousands of employees and contractors, and the drilling of hundreds of new wells. Most of Anderson’s 37-year career in oil and gas has been with Aera. He holds a chemical engineering degree from Stanford University.
The oil and gas industry has undergone a major transformation in the last decade. From the way we think about our operations to new technologies and improved processes, we are an industry that previous generations of oil and gas producers would hardly recognize.
Aera is a prime example of the industry’s remarkable advancements. Since Aera started 22 years ago, we’ve consistently strived to improve the way we produce oil and gas. But what we’ve achieved in just the last two or three years is especially impressive. For example:
- This year alone, Aera has materially reduced GHG emissions by improving energy efficiency and associated costs. Using today’s gasoline prices, it’s the equivalent to cutting greenhouse gas emissions of roughly 346 cars on California roads each year or preventing more than 3.5 million pounds of gasoline-produced CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Working together, Aera employees and contractors have developed and deployed multiple energy-saving initiatives. Among those are piping insulation, variable frequency drive installation, mechanical “pigging” devices that clean pipelines, and other energy-saving tools.
- We’re proud of 500 BOPD. That’s how many more barrels of oil per day Aera has produced so far in 2019 thanks to successful remediation, or restoration, of wellbores. And we’ve done that without incurring new development costs. That means more oil to meet the demands of California, which imports more than 65% of its daily demand.
How we got here
Aera’s recent advancements are largely the result of our relentless continuous improvement philosophy accelerated by the oil and gas downturn that occurred between 2014 and 2016, when oil prices collapsed and thousands of jobs across the industry were lost, along with one of the major economic drivers for the state. As bad as that was, it was the biggest steppingstone to our 21st century transformation.
That last downturn sent Aera a clear signal: We had to significantly improve our cost structure in a safe and environmentally responsible manner to achieve sustainable production and withstand low oil-price environments. With sustainable production comes sustainable jobs. That led us to establish Project Trailblazer in 2018. This is a companywide, cross-functional initiative to develop and deploy solutions to improve our business performance.
With our focus on becoming leaner and more productive, Aera has successfully pursued innovations that bear little resemblance to past oil and gas operations. We owe some of our biggest advances to:
- Greater use of data analytics. This led us to create our Rig Dashboard, which boosts our performance visibility and identifies opportunities in rig efficiency. We also implemented our Energy Management Dashboard to better understand our energy consumption and find ways to reduce usage and, along with it, our carbon footprint.
- Harnessing technologies. We’ve applied new sub-surface and surface technologies to increase production, reduce costs and enhance integrity and safety. For example, through our Well Remediation Team initiative, we’ve boosted production from existing wells using casing patches, “Blue Spark” well-stimulation technology and the String Expander Tool. We’ve also piloted and incorporated flex-steel piping, zap-lock connectors and piping insulation for our surface facilities. You may not recognize these terms if you’re not in the oil and gas industry. Just know that these technologies not only reduce costs but also improve the safety of our people and communities where we operate by eliminating high-risk tasks or reducing exposure.
- New ways of working. Over the past year, Aera also has focused on changing the way we work to more quickly identify problems and increase our decision-making effectiveness. For instance, our newly established energy management and well remediation teams are focusing on the key challenges of decreasing energy consumption and salvaging aging wellbores.
More work for the future
Maintaining our production levels and our license to operate in California is critical for long-term sustainability. Consistent with our vision to lead the industry by responsibly delivering energy and unsurpassed value, creating success for those we touch, at Aera we’re seeking to reduce our carbon footprint. We’re looking into a variety of ways to do this, including more energy-reduction initiatives, optimizing steam generation and injection, and utilizing solar for some of our electricity and steam requirements.
Transformational thinking has reshaped Aera and brought dramatic improvements. But like the rest of the oil and gas industry, we face significant challenges as we undergo an energy transition. Given the changing environment, it’s critical that Aera maintain its position as a safe and responsible operator. We’ll keep seeking – and, I’m confident, finding – new and better ways to help California and our nation meet our growing energy demands.