Skip navigation
Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse
Tribal Energy and Environmental Information Clearinghouse: Environmental resources for tribal energy development
Energy Resources Assessments & Monitoring Laws & Regulations
Energy Resources Assessments & Monitoring Laws & Regulations |  Home  |  News  |  FAQ  |  Glossary
Document Library
Federal and Tribal Contacts

Oil or Gas Production Phase: Resource Requirements and Impact Sources

Aerial Photo of Natural Gas Field
Aerial Photo of Natural Gas Field
Source: BLM
Aerial Photo of Natural Gas Field
Source: BLM
Click to enlarge

Localized land-disturbing activities and associated impacts are anticipated from oil or gas production and, to a lesser extent, from maintenance or replacement of project components.

The production phase of an oil or gas field may include the drilling of secondary and enhanced oil recovery wells. In addition, workers would need to periodically inspect the wells and ancillary facilities; maintain, repair, or replace components; and manage vegetation. Disturbance due to maintenance activities would also increase over the life of the oil and gas field due to increased number of wells, access roads, gathering pipelines, and other facilities required as the oil and gas field develops.

Requirements and Impact Sources

  • Acreage – Acreage needs during production would be reduced from those required for drilling and development, but would vary depending upon the ongoing operations. After drilling has been completed, a well pad is often reduced in size to 1.5 acres or less. Portions of the area disturbed during construction and drilling that are not needed for ongoing production would be revegetated as soon as possible to reduce the overall footprint of the well pad (i.e., undergo interim reclamation).
  • Emissions - Emissions produced would include dust and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from vehicles used for site maintenance and monitoring, emissions from operation of compressor stations or pump stations, potential gas product leakage, and volatile cleaning agents and paint fumes. Emissions from oil and gas production, flaring of natural gas, product spills, or blowouts could include natural gas, VOCs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur compounds, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide. Flaring of sour gas can also include hydrogen sulfide and carbon disulfide.
  • Waste Generation – Small amounts of lubricating oils or fuels; paints or coatings for corrosion control; and woody vegetation from vegetation maintenance. Small oil spills are very common. There is potential for spills of crude oil or herbicides that would require cleaning and disposal as a waste product. Other wastes include sanitary wastes, produced sand, pipe scale, waste paints, spent catalysts, separator sludge, tank bottoms, used filters, and sanitary wastes. Some fraccing fluids and proppants include potentially toxic acids and diesel fuel. Produced water is the largest volume of waste generated; volumes range widely depending upon the type of formation and age of production. Produced water can contain heavy metals, radionuclides, dissolved solids, salts, biocides, lubricants, corrosion inhibitors. Produced sands and other particles can contain crude oil and naturally occurring radioactive material (NORM).
  • Water Needs – Potable water will be required for inspection and maintenance workforce and for staff working at pump and compressor stations. Water could also be required for cleaning of equipment or vehicles and as a contingency for fire fighting. Large quantities of water may be used to stimulate or enhance production from a well.
  • Workforce – Oil and gas production could require up to about 700 worker-days per well per 10-year period during the production phase. An additional 35 to 70 worker-days per well would be required for workovers. Workovers could occur at a frequency of once every three years to once every 10 to 20 years.
  • Time – Oil and gas wells can produce product for 20 years or more, but the length of production is largely dependent upon both economic and technological conditions. They generally have their highest production in early years.
  • Utility Requirements – Oil, gas, or electricity would be required to run the pumps or compressors. Use of on-site generators may be required for some aspects of repair or replacement of facility components.