Shale Daily / NGI The Weekly Gas Market Report

California Revised Draft Fracking Rules Released

Revised draft hydraulic fracturing (fracking) rules including a call for reporting any related quake activity of magnitude 2.0 or greater were released Friday by the California Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR). New definitions and expanded requirements are included in the 29-page draft.

Initial reactions from the industry were supportive, while the environmental sector remains skeptical, particularly regarding a new provision for single-project authorizations that could include multiple fracking jobs.

Conservation Director Mark Nechodom said there were "significant differences" between the original draft rules. which were released last November in response to the signing into law of SB 4, and the current draft requirements, which have been impacted by strong criticism from environmental groups.

"This is a more detailed set of regulations," Nechodom said. He said the revisions should better advance the state's goals of "protecting the environment and public health/safety" as well allowing oil/natural gas operators to continue their operations, which can benefit the state's economy.

Under the latest draft, oil/gas operators must monitor the state's integrated seismic network from the start of fracking until 10 days after it ends to note and report to DOGGR any earthquakes of 2.0 magnitude or greater.

There were also changes in the notification of landowners of adjacent properties, requiring that they be offered in both English and Spanish. And the notification must inform people that they have a right to request local water testing before and after the fracking.

Late last year, to comply with SB 4-mandated fracking regulations, California designated as "emergency regulations" a set of interim rules that took effect Jan. 1 this year while permanent rules and an environmental assessment were being finalized (see Shale Daily, Dec. 12, 2013). The latest revised draft rules are now posted on the Department of Conservation website (www.conservation.ca.gov).

The revised rules have added requirements related to gaining permits, obtaining and reporting information, sharing information, and calculating and reporting acid volumes used. A DOGGR spokesperson said they include:

  • More detail and specification for an application for a permit to perform a well stimulation treatment;
  • More detail and specification regarding operators' public disclosure requirements after completing a well stimulation treatment;
  • References and descriptions regarding information sharing between DOGGR and other state and local regulators, and requiring key requirements of other state agencies;
  • For operations not meeting the definition of well stimulation treatment, the use of acid or the application of pressure to the formation must be briefly described and filed with the state; and
  • A calculated acid volume threshold has been added to the regulations for the purpose of distinguishing between well stimulation treatment and other routine operations.

DOGGR has scheduled another round of public comment meetings on the revised draft rules in mid-July in five locations -- Santa Maria (July 15); Long Beach (July 17); Sacramento (July 21); Salinas (July 23) and Bakersfield (July 23).

Environmental groups were skeptical about the earlier draft rules and they are still concerned, particularly about the single-project authorization that would allow a single DOGGR approval of multiple applications for permits to perform well stimulation treatments when operators request single-project authorization.

Meanwhile, the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), which supported SB 4 and the state's ongoing implementation process, has expressed support for the latest draft revisions, noting that the state is keeping its commitment to collaborate with the industry and the general public in implementing the SB 4 mandate for a tough set of fracking rules.

WSPA President Catherine Reheis-Boyd said that California is "continuing down the path towards a comprehensive and robust set of regulations that will protect the state’s environment while ensuring hydraulic fracturing can be conducted safely and with great efficiency.

"We are reviewing the updated draft, but it appears to be in line with the conservation department's and DOGGR’s commitment to transparency and collaboration with the industry and the public. WSPA’s members have been operating under interim hydraulic regulations since SB 4 became law, and will continue to engage the administration [of Gov. Jerry Brown] on regulations that will ensure safe and efficient well stimulation techniques."

WSPA maintains that Californians have come to rely on fracking, which is used on nearly a third of the state’s wells. Conventional oil production now supplies 37% of the state’s daily petroleum needs with the rest coming from imports, according to WSPA.

"California production is virtually all conventional now," said WSPA spokesperson Tupper Hull  "People tend to associate hydraulic fracturing with unconventional production but the fracking that is taking place now [in California] is almost all associated with conventional or non-shale oil production."

Recent Articles by Richard Nemec