After a nearly three-year delay, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is preparing to begin a well inspection program before the end of the year.

On Feb. 5, 2011, the DEP adopted a mechanical integrity assessment (MIA) program, which requires that operators inspect the mechanical integrity of their wells on a quarterly basis and file their reports with to the DEP once a year. But the plan was put on hold to give the DEP more time to implement an electronic system to manage the reports.

"The requirement was adopted, but DEP had to sort out some issues," DEP spokeswoman Lisa Kasianowitz told NGI's Shale Daily on Tuesday. "To get that much data coming through the door, we have to have a way to manage all of it and be able to review it on a timely basis. It was more of a time management issue on our end.

"For the past two years, since the regulation was adopted, DEP had been working towards finalizing the annual report forms, training operators on conducting the inspection and filling out the form, and training DEP staff members on processing the form. It was a necessary process to be able to appropriately record and assess the well integrity data."

Kasianowitz said it was unclear if some operators had voluntarily performed the mechanical integrity tests during the interim period. She said the DEP has been holding training sessions with operators this fall. The agency is planning to have operators complete their first round of inspections before the end of the year.

"Operators can, of course, do these checks," she said. "They already need to do things like make sure their well pad liners don't have holes in them, and check the pressure in their wells. And of course they can visually and physically search their well site for any malfunctions or anything that might possibly happen. But as for them putting it on a report and sending it to DEP, they weren't required to do so."

According to documents for the MIA program, two forms (A and B) have been developed. Form A permits quarterly well integrity data to be compiled for up to 250 well locations for four consecutive quarters and has embedded computer programming.

Form B is for operators or owners that are aware of the well inspection components that apply at their well locations and prefer assembling the well inspection data using other mechanisms. Form B allows for up to 6,000 individual inspections to be recorded.