Spills and Violations

Spill Management

We prevent spills through a range of measures, from site design and operational planning through mechanical integrity testing to inspections. In the DJ Basin and Marcellus Shale, for example, we transport certain chemicals in dry form rather than liquid form to minimize spill risk. We also have in place contingency plans and response equipment for the possibility of an unintentional release of hydrocarbons either from a well or one of our vessels. We track spills and report any that meet or exceed state or federal reporting thresholds.

In 2015, we developed new standard operating procedures for the assessment and remediation of sites after the discovery of leaks or spills (including historic leaks or spills). Drafted using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and American National Standards Institute guidance, the procedures give employees a set of parameters to ensure that remediation activities are conducted in a manner acceptable to state and federal agencies.

For the year, our total spills continued to decline in both number and volume, even with expanded reporting to encompass all global operations.

Performance Data


Spills 2013 2014 2015 (U.S. Onshore) 2015 (Global)1
Total Number 120 90 91 94
Hydrocarbons (in barrels) 493 697.5 403.6 403.7
Water (in barrels) 3,439 609 239 239
Other fluids (in barrels)2 234 464 0 0.07

1 To improve our disclosure for 2015, we have expanded our reporting of spill data to cover all our operations.
2 “Other” includes non-produced fluids such as diesel, chemicals and drilling mud.

U.S. Reportable Spills

Hydrocarbons (in barrels)

Water (in barrels)

Other Fluids (in barrels)2

2 “Other” includes non-produced fluids such as diesel, chemicals and drilling mud.

Total Number

Environmental Fines and Violations

In 2015, violations of U.S. and state environmental regulations resulted in an aggregate payment of $5.02 million to federal and state agencies for civil fines and penalties. Of this, $4.95 million related to a consent decree Noble Energy agreed to with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of Colorado, which addresses alleged under-design of vapor control systems at Noble’s condensate storage tank batteries in the Denver Julesburg Basin 8-hour ozone marginal nonattainment area.

Under the agreement, Noble is spending an estimated $60 million over three years on system upgrades, monitoring and inspections. Mitigation measures in the agreement will further reduce emissions. They include retrofitting engines to run on natural gas, upgrading control systems for transferring oil and other liquids from storage tanks to tanker trucks, and supporting scientific research on sampling and analytical methods for managing pressurized liquids. We also provided $2 million in funding during 2015 for state Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) in Colorado and will spend $2 million in federal SEPs.

Site Decommissioning

We are committed to exiting our projects as responsibly as we begin them. In 2015, seven wells were plugged and abandoned in Texas and 213 wells were plugged and abandoned in the DJ Basin. No wells were plugged and abandoned in Marcellus or the Gulf of Mexico.