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California Regulators Cite 56 Operators For Failing to Provide Water Data

Drought-sensitive California oil/gas regulators on Friday issued violation notices to 56 operators in the state for failing to report water data on time.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) released the latest quarterly statistics showing 103,317 acre-feet of water were produced from oil/natural gas extraction. Required under a new state law (SB 1281), the water-related reporting covers 250 data points for both individual wells and whole fields. The data accounts for produced, injected, disposed of, and otherwise utilized water in California's oilfields with a second quarter report from the industry.

Steve Bohlen, the outgoing head of the DOC's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) said the state now has a more complete picture of the production and distribution of oil-produced water. "Notably, we collected data from all the major oil/gas operators," he said.

Totals in the second quarter represent roughly 90% of all production and injection in the state, Bohlen said.

The data comes from the production, injection, well-to-well volume allocation, and stored and non-injection stored water for 297 operators, up from 55 in the first quarter, Bohlen said.

A major goal of the data collection is "to determine whether more treated water from oil production can be put to further productive use in oil/gas activities or beneficial uses,” he said.

However, for the second quarter, only a relatively small proportion of the oil-produced water was found suitable for domestic or irrigation purposes -- 6,444 acre-feet from the total of more than 103,000 acre-feet produced.

All California operators are required to report water data under SB 1281, a DOGGR spokesperson said. Notices of violations have been sent to 56 operators known to be producing, but who failed to submit the required information.

"Most of the statistical differences between quarters one and two have little or nothing to do with changes in oilfield practices, but instead represent refinements in the reporting process -- both at the operators' and our end," Bohlen said. "We're early in the process of implementing the law and we expect operators will continue to improve compliance."

After DOGGR reported earlier this year that the oil industry in the state produced 15 barrels of water for every barrel of oil, the regional water authority in the expansive agriculture and oil/gas-rich central valley notified producers of new testing requirements for the diverted wastewater supplies, and the legislature spawned various proposals for added testing of oil-generated water supplies (see Daily GPI, May 5).

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