U.S. Bureau of Land Management announces rules for fracking on federal land

Natural gas drilling worksite with dramatic sky.
Source: Nightman1965-Fotolia.com

On Thursday (26th March) the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued the final rule on drilling and hydraulic fracturing on federal land. Since the new environmental safeguards on shale drilling on federal land were publicly introduced the previous week, they were met with protests from the oil and gas industry, who deemed the legislation superfluous, burdensome, and costly.

Two industry groups – The Independent Petroleum Association of America and Western Energy Alliance – have announced that they are going to take legal action to counteract the rules which they called a “reaction to unsubstantiated concerns.”

The BLM, from their side, pointed out that the regulations – which apply only to federal lands, but could work as a blueprint for regulation of the oil and gas on private land – were the result of numerous meetings and more than 1.5 million comments from individuals and groups since 2010.

The final rule covers the goals to ensure wells are properly constructed to protect water supplies, fluids flowing back to the surface due to hydraulic fracturing operations are managed in an environmentally responsible way, and to provide public disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids.

The final rule goes further to provide:

  1. Increased public awareness of where hydraulic fracturing has occurred, the existence of other wells or geologic faults or fractures in the area, and communication of chemicals used in the hyrdraulic fracturing process.
  2. Clearer and stronger rules related to well construction, well integrity and technology developments.
  3. Alignment of state and tribal authorities with regard to water zones requiring protection.
  4. Opportunities to coordinate standards and processes with individual states and tribes to reduce costs, increase efficiencies and promote the development of more stringent standards by state and tribal governments.

With this new rule, the BLM establishes the following new requirements:

  1. Submission of detailed information on proposed operations, including wellbore geology, fault and fracture locations, depths of usable water, estimated fluid volumes to be used, and estimated length and direction of fractures to the BLM.
  2. Casing and cementing programs that follow best management practices and meets performance standards to protect usable water.
  3. Cement operations monitoring during well construction.
  4. Remedial action taken when any indication of inadequate cementing and reporting success to BLM.
  5. Successful mechanical integrity tests completed prior to hydraulic fracturing operations.
  6. Annulus pressure monitoring during hydraulic fracturing operations.
  7. “Produced water” storage must be in above-ground tanks, with very limited exceptions of lined pits usage.
  8. Chemical disclosure to BLM and the public, with limited exceptions for trade secrets, with the use of FracFocus.
  9. Documentation to BLM of all above listed requirements.

The final rule can be viewed here.

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