Noble Energy Inc., once known as Noble Affiliates, was an oil and gas company acquired by Chevron in 2020. Maritime oil and gas work is hazardous, and any accident can lead to an injured or even killed worker or an environmental disaster. Unfortunately, Noble was the subject of lawsuits over environmental damage and other controversial decisions it made.
Lloyd Noble founded his energy company, Samedan Oil Corporation, in 1932 and named it for his three children: Sam, Ed, and Ann.
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- Samedan acquired its first offshore oil rights in 1968 in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Soon after, the company created Noble Affiliates as a holding company and a drilling company called Noble Drilling Corporation. This would later be spun off in 1985.
- In 2000 the company moved headquarters to Houston, Texas, from Ardmore, Oklahoma.
- Over the years, the company also acquired others to help expand its reach in exploration and development, both on land and offshore.
- In 2010, Noble’s Deep Blue well in the Gulf of Mexico reached more than 32,000 feet deep.
- In 2011 the company became the first to receive a deepwater permit in the Gulf of Mexico after the disastrous Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill.
- In 2020, Chevron bought Noble for $13 billion.
The operations for Noble Energy included three continents. As for offshore operations, Noble worked in two fields in deep water portions of the Gulf of Mexico.
The company also operated offshore of Equatorial Guinea on the west coast of Africa and tapped a natural gas reserve offshore of Israel.
Future projects were planned for offshore drilling in Gabon in West Africa and Suriname and the Falkland Islands in South America.
Commitment to Safety and Environment
According to Noble, the company was dedicated to environmental responsibility and safety. It tackled environmental responsibility by creating and using better technology.
The company claimed to be responsible for managing water supplies and air emissions. For example, it reduced greenhouse gas emissions in 2015 while also expanding habitat restoration and working toward better management of the impact operations have on water resources.
As for safety, the company always said it was committed to protecting workers and the local communities in which it operates. The company worked with a simple philosophy of “no harm.”
Noble instituted a new safety and training initiative in 2013 and, by 2015, had reported a much-improved safety record. For instance, there were only five recorded safety incidents in 2015, one rig reported no incidents for two years, and one drilling group reported 450 days without incident.
Environmental Accidents and Lawsuits
Although Noble Energy claimed to be committed to safety and the environment, it caused a few environmental accidents and was at the center of a political dispute.
Environmental Contamination in Colorado
One major case involved Noble and the state of Colorado. Noble operates in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, extracting oil and gas through wells. Noble got in trouble when it was found that condensate storage tanks were leaking volatile organic compounds into the air.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found the company to violate regulations requiring these dangerous and polluting compounds to be controlled.
The EPA mandated that Noble evaluate the system used at the site using engineers and that it makes any modifications those engineers recommend. A third-party evaluator would then review the changes, and Noble would continue to operate using monitors to keep volatile compounds in check.
The company had to pay $13.45 million for the incident. Noble also had to spend nearly $5 million mitigating the environmental damage caused by the leaks and more money to cover other corrective actions.
Although unrelated to the environment, Noble was also embroiled in a Falkland Islands controversy. This region of South America is disputed between the United Kingdom and Argentina.
The former gave Noble rights to drilling there, but Argentina denied that, claiming it owned the islands and did not give the company the right to drill offshore. Argentina brought a lawsuit, but it was expected to be settled in favor of the United Kingdom and Noble.
Worker Safety and Rights
Noble posted impressive safety statistics after implementing its 2013 “no harm” initiative. However, when offshore drilling for oil and gas is a company’s business, accidents are bound to happen.
It is dangerous work with dangerous equipment that takes place in rough waters, deep waters, and extreme weather conditions. Even the simple act of transporting workers to and from offshore platforms can be risky and life-threatening.
The safety initiative made an impact, and workers were made a priority at Noble Energy. According to the company, lost-time incidents numbered 3 in 2013, zero in 2014, and 2 in 2015.
This did not include contractors, who increased those numbers to 16, 13, and 10. The company had zero fatalities among employees and contractors for those three years.
This doesn’t mean no workers will ever be harmed or lose their lives working for Noble and other maritime companies. If you are not fortunate enough to work for a maritime company that takes safety seriously, you may be at real risk for injury or death on the job.
You have the right to compensation if you are hurt on the job, and your family has the same right if you die.
The best thing you can do after an incident is to seek the advice of a maritime lawyer. Instead of agreeing to your employer’s suggestions, see what a legal professional can do for you.