Noble Energy Inc., once known as Noble Affiliates, is an oil and gas company involved in both exploration and production. The company has its roots in founder Lloyd Noble’s 1932 company Samedan Oil Corporation. Noble is headquartered in Houston, Texas and was ranked number 505 on the Fortune 1000 list in 2015. The company holds rights to more than 1,000 barrels of oil largely in the U.S., Israel, and Equatorial Guinea.
As with any company that works with oil and gas, environmental accidents are a concern for Noble as is worker safety on offshore sites. Maritime oil and gas work is very dangerous and any accident, no matter how small it seems can lead to an injured or even killed worker, or an environmental disaster. Unfortunately, Noble has been a subject of numerous lawsuits over the latter as well as other controversial decisions it has made.
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Lloyd Noble founded his energy company, Samedan Oil Corporation in 1932 and named it for his three children: Sam, Ed, and Ann. Samedan acquired its first offshore oil rights in 1968 in the Gulf of Mexico. Soon after the company created Noble Affiliates to act as a holding company and also 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 truly deep waters at more than 32,000 feet. 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.
Today, the operations for Noble Energy include three continents with new projects in the works on a fourth, South America. As for offshore operations, Noble works two fields in deep water portions of the Gulf of Mexico. The company also operates offshore of Equatorial Guinea on the west coast of Africa and taps a natural gas reserve offshore of Israel. Future projects in the works include 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 is dedicated to environmental responsibility and safety. It tackles environmental responsibility by creating and using better technology. The company claims to be responsible about 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 says it is committed to protecting workers and the local communities in which it operates. The company works 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 claims to be committed to safety and the environment, it has fallen down on the latter. 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 be in violation of regulations requiring that these dangerous and polluting compounds be kept under control. The EPA required 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. Noble also had to spend nearly $5 million mitigating the environmental damage caused by the leaks in addition to more money to cover other corrective actions. In total the company had to pay out $13.45 million for the incident.
Although not related to the environment, Noble also got embroiled in a controversy in the Falkland Islands. This region of South America is disputed between the United Kingdom and Argentina. The former gave rights to Noble to drill there, but Argentina disputed that claiming it owns the islands and did not give the company the right to drill offshore. Argentina brought a lawsuit over the issue, but it is expected to be settled in favor of the United Kingdom and Noble.
Worker Safety and Rights
Noble has posted some impressive safety statistics since implementing its 2013 “no harm” initiative. However, when offshore drilling for oil and gas is the business of a company, 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.
According to the company, lost-time incidents numbered 3 in 2013, zero in 2014, and 2 in 2015. This did not include contractors, who brought those numbers up to 16, 13, and 10. The company has seen zero fatalities among employees and contractors for each of those three years. Clearly the safety initiative has had an impact and workers are being made a priority at Noble Energy.
This doesn’t mean that no workers will ever be harmed on the job 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 rights to compensation if you are hurt on the job and your family has the same right if you die on the job. The best thing you can do after an incident is to seek the advice of a maritime lawyer. Instead of agreeing to whatever your employer suggests, see what a legal professional can do for you.