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BLM Releases Proposed Regulations Applicable to Well Stimulation of Oil and Natural Gas Wells on Federal Lands

Friday, May 4, 2012 1:24 pm by

After months of speculation, the U.S. Department of Interior today gave the public its first look at proposed federal regulations that would govern hydraulic fracturing and well stimulation operations by oil and natural gas companies on federal and Indian lands. A 60-day comment period is expected to begin upon publication of the proposal in the Federal Register.

Among other things, the proposed regulations would require that prior to commencement of well stimulation operations the operator must (1) obtain BLM approval  of the proposed well stimulation operations; (2) submit a wide range of data related to geology and mechanical integrity of the well; (3) potentially perform corrective work on the well cementing based on BLM’s analysis of cement bond logs; (4) disclose the chemicals/additives proposed to be used in the well stimulation operation; and (5) submit detailed information related to the proposed water supply, water management techniques, and recovered fluids handling.   

Much of this information is required to be submitted with an operator’s Application for Permit to Drill (APD). If a well is permitted prior to the date the proposed regulations go into effect, and the original APD did not include the required pre-well stimulation information, the operator must supplement the original APD with that information prior to well stimulation.

In addition to the pre-well stimulation requirements, the proposed regulations include several new definitions and a long list of information that the operator must submit related to the actual well stimulation operations. 

BLM has specifically requested comment on the following issues:

  1. How best to avoid duplication of requirements under the proposed rule with existing state requirements;
  2. Whether the operator should be required to submit as part of the Sundry Notice application additional information about how it will dispose of waste streams not specifically addressed in this proposal;
  3. How BLM can ensure that any additional information it requests related to corrective work on cement bonding deficiencies is the least burdensome to operators as possible while still accomplishing the goal of protecting the public lands and resources;
  4. Whether the proposed rule should impose additional requirements that would require tanks or lined pits for drilling fluids and any other fluids associated with well stimulation operations;
  5. Whether any proposed provision related to the handling of flowback water would be duplicative of provisions of state rules and whether it is unnecessarily burdensome.

The pre and post-well stimulation reporting provisions are summarized below.

Prior Approval of Well Stimulation Operations

Proposed section 3162.3-3(b) would require operators to obtain approval prior to performing well stimulation operations, such as hydraulic fracturing. The following information would be required to be submitted to BLM at least 30 days before an operator plans on beginning well stimulation operations:

  1. Geologic Information: The geological names, a geological description, and the proposed measured depth of the top and the bottom of the formation into which well stimulation fluids are to be injected;
  2. Cement Bond Logs: The proposed measured depths (both top and bottom) of all occurrences of usable water and the Cement Bond Logs (or another log acceptable to the authorized officer) proving that the occurrences of usable water have been isolated to protect them from contamination;
  3. Proposed Depth of Perforation, Sources of Water , Pump Pressures, and Transportation Routes: The proposed measured depth of perforations or the open-hole interval, the source and location(s) of the water used in the stimulation fluid or trade name of the base fluid (if other than water), type of proppants, and estimated pump pressures. Information concerning water supply, such as rivers, creeks, springs, lakes, ponds, and wells, which may be shown by quarter-quarter section on a map or plat, or which may be described in writing. The NOI Sundry must also identify the source, access route, and transportation method for all water anticipated for use in stimulating the well;
  4. Operator Certification of Compliance: A certification signed by the operator that the proposed treatment fluid complies with all applicable permitting and notice requirements as well as all applicable Federal, tribal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations;
  5. Proposed Well Stimulation Design and Fracture Assessment:  A detailed description of the proposed well stimulation design, including: (i) the estimated total volume of fluid to be used; (ii) The anticipated surface treating pressure range; (iii) The maximum injection treating pressure; and (iv) the estimated or calculated fracture length and fracture height.
  6. Proposal for Recovered Fluids Handling: The following information concerning the handling of recovered fluids: (i) the estimated volume of fluid to be recovered during flow back, swabbing, and recovery from production facility vessels; (ii) The proposed methods of handling the recovered fluids, including, but not limited to, pit requirements, chemical composition of the fluid, pipeline requirements, holding pond use, re-use for other stimulation activities, or injection; and (iii) The proposed disposal method of the recovered fluids, including, but not limited to, injection, hauling by truck, or transporting by pipeline.
  7. Any Additional Information:  Additional information, as requested by the authorized officer.

Completion Reporting Requirements

Proposed section 3162.3-3(f) would require operators to submit a subsequent report upon completion of well stimulation operations.

  1. Record of Annulus Pessure : A continuous record of the annulus pressure must be submitted with the required Subsequent Report Sundry Notice (Form 3160-5, Sundry Notices and Reports on Wells) identified in paragraph (g) of this section.
  2. 24 Hour Notice Requirement for Certain Well Pressure:  If during the stimulation the annulus pressure increases by more than 500 pounds per square inch as compared to the pressure immediately preceding the stimulation, the operator must orally notify the authorized officer as soon as practicable, but no later than 24 hours following the incident. Within 15 days after the occurrence, the operator must submit a report containing all details pertaining to the incident, including corrective actions taken, as part of a Subsequent Report Sundry Notice (Form 3160-5, Sundry Notices and Reports on Wells).
  3. Perforation Depth, Source of Water, Pump Pressures, and Transportation Routes: The actual measured depth of perforations or the open-hole interval, the source and location(s) of the water used in the stimulation fluid or trade name of base fluid (if other than water), type of proppants, and estimated pump pressures. Information concerning water supply, such as rivers, creeks, springs, lakes, ponds, and wells, which may be shown by quarter-quarter section on a map or plat, or which may be described in writing. It must also identify the source, access route, and transportation method for all water used in stimulating the well.
  4. Chemical Disclosure:  The actual total volume of the fluid used. The actual surface pressure and rate at the end of each fluid stage, and the actual flush volume, rate, and final pump pressure. A report (table) that discloses all additives of the actual stimulation fluid, by additive trade name and purpose (such as, but not limited to, acid, biocide, breaker, brine, corrosion inhibitor, crosslinker, demulsifier, friction reducer, gel, iron control, oxygen scavenger, pH adjusting agent, proppant, scale inhibitor, or surfactant); and a report (table) that discloses the complete chemical makeup of all materials used in the actual stimulation fluid without regard to original source additive (see paragraph (g)(4) of this section). For each chemical, the operator must provide the Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Number as well as the percentage by mass. The percent mass value is the mass value for each component (Mc) divided by the value of the entire fluid mass (Mt) times 100. (Mc/Mt)*100 = percent value. The percent mass values should be for the entire stimulation operation, not for the individual stages.
  5. Fracture Information:  The actual, estimated, or calculated fracture length and fracture height.
  6. Operator Certification of Compliance: A certification signed by the operator that the treatment fluid used complies with all applicable permitting and notice requirements as well as all applicable Federal, tribal, state, and local laws, rules, and regulations. A certification signed by the operator that wellbore integrity was maintained throughout the operation, as required by paragraphs (d), (e)(1), and (e)(2) of this section.
  7. Recovered Fluids Handling: The following information concerning the handling of recovered fluids: (i) The volume of fluid recovered during flow back, swabbing, or recovery from production facility vessels; (ii) The methods of handling the recovered fluids, including, but not limited to, pipeline requirements, holding pond use, re-use for other stimulation activities, or injection; and (iii) The disposal method of the recovered fluids, including, but not limited to, injection, hauling by truck, or transporting by pipeline. The disposal of fluids produced during the flow back from the well stimulation process must follow the requirements set out in Onshore Order Number 7, Disposal of Produced Water, Section III. B.
  8. Deviation Report: If the actual operations deviate from the approved plan, the deviation(s) must be documented.


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