WorldWide Drilling Resource

8 JULY 2021 WorldWide Drilling Resource ® Oilfield Lighting and Dark Skies ~ An Update for Texas Adapted from Information by the Railroad Commission of Texas Back in 2010, the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) was contacted about concerns related to light originating from gas and oil rigs in the Permian Basin, specifically in the vicinity of the University of Texas McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains of West Texas. Increased development of gas and oil production in the Permian Basin was generating light reflect- ing off the sky. The McDonald Observatory, a state-of-the-art facility on the cutting edge of scientific research in the field of astronomy, said the gleam of light from these operations could compromise their research efforts if not mitigated. With a major upgrade to their historic Hobby-Eberly telescope in the works, they hoped a solution to bright skies would be found because the upgrade would allow three-dimen- sional glimpses deep into the universe. In 2011, the Texas legislature revised Section 240.032 of the Local Government Code to require the commissioners court of a county, any part of which is located within 57 miles of the McDonald Observatory, to adopt orders regulating the installation and use of outdoor lighting in any unincorporated territory of the county. Additionally, Stacy Locke with Pioneer Energy Services and Bill Wren with the University of Texas McDonald Observatory developed a report titled Oilfield Lighting Can Coexist with Dark Skies. In September 2016, WorldWide Drilling Resource ® reported on this issue in the magazine article Star Light, Star Bright. Now, a new Notice to Operators updates recommended lighting practices to preserve the dark skies necessary for the observatory to continue their work. These practices are the result of a collaborative effort by the McDonald Observatory, Permian Basin Petroleum Association, Texas Oil and Gas Association, and the American Petroleum Institute. Eight project phases recommend specific mitigation steps to keep the skies dark. k Phase One is to prepare a lighting plan to minimize night-sky impacts. This includes the number of lights, the lumen output of each, lamp color temperature, alternatives to lighting, fixture design, and minimization of unnecessary lighting and activities. k Phase Two addresses audiovisual warning system technology for hazard lighting on structures taller than 200 feet. It suggests using the minimum required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to minimize light impacts. k Phase Three recommends all perma- nent lighting use full cutoff luminaires, fully shielded, unless required for safety by the FAA. k Phase Four recommends lighting be mounted and directed to focus only on the intended area to avoid light spill and off-site light trespass. k Phase Five recommends using amber instead of bluish-white lighting when accurate color rendition is not required. k Phase Six calls to minimize lighting usage during construction and opera- tions, using portable lighting if possible. Facilities lighting should not exceed the minimum number, intensity, and cover- age required for safety. They should be controlled by timers, sensors, or switches for facility operators and only switched on when there is a specific need. k Phase Seven recommends using vehicle-mounted lights or portable light towers for nighttime maintenance activ- ities. k Phase Eight recommends using an enclosed combustor or similar technolo- gy rather than an open flare in locations with a continuous or near-continuous flare. G&O