Shale Drillers Are Curbing the Glare for Telescopes

(Bloomberg) -- Texas oil drillers are dimming the lights on the shale explosion -- for astronomy’s sake.

Crude explorers in North America’s busiest field have agreed to temper light pollution from the 150-foot (46-meter) tall rigs they’re using to strike oil in remote West Texas, home to the University of Texas-run McDonald Observatory.

The voluntary effort laid out ways for oil companies to reduce the skyward glare and shine more of the light toward the ground, according to a joint statement on Monday from the observatory, the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the Permian Basin Petroleum Association.

Perched atop Mount Locke and Mount Fowlkes in the Davis Mountains, the observatory has been taking advantage of some of the darkest night skies in the continental U.S. since the 1930s, according to its website. That’s been challenged by a shale revolution that’s pushed drilling to record levels, prompting McDonald to spend the past two years working with explorers to develop new lighting guidelines.

The goal is to protect nighttime darkness that’s “vital to the research of the universe taking place at McDonald,” said Taft Armandroff, the observatory’s director. But it’s good for the oil industry as well: Increasing the amount of light shining down on worksites and not cast off into the sky will improve safety and cut power costs, according to the statement.

The campaign was supported by a grant from explorer Apache Corp., the groups said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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