Lacking anything like the Bakken to its north and not seeing a major new play on the horizon, South Dakota oil and natural gas authorities nevertheless have begun the process for upgrading the state’s exploration and production (E&P) regulations, including adding provisions addressing hydraulic fracturing.

South Dakota’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources has scheduled a public hearing on its draft rules for Jan. 17, and it will be taking public comments on the rules until Jan. 9, according the department’s administrator for minerals and mining, Bob Townsend.

“We don’t anticipate large-scale hydraulic fracturing (fracking) activity in South Dakota unless an unconventional type reservoir is discovered,” Townsend said. “We share the Williston Basin with North Dakota, and there are producing formations in North Dakota that do extend into our state. In addition, the Red River formation also extends into North Dakota.”

Nevertheless, one of the three oil/gas drilling rule additions deals with fracking, calling for operators to report fracking details to the Internet-based FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry. The other changes deal with final reclamation requirements for all oil/gas well sites and interim reclamation activities between closure and plugging of wells.

Townsend characterized the fracking addition as “simply a reporting requirement.” He said that South Dakota is just attempting to get in line with what a number of states are already doing.

Another driver for the fracking rule comes from anticipation that the boom erupting in the Bakken in North Dakota could migrate south. “A legislative committee was formed last summer to look at the potential impacts from increased oil/gas development in both North and South Dakota,” Townsend said. As part of that effort, some of the landowners in Harding County raised some issues about the existing oil/gas drilling operations.

“So apart from the legislative committee, we have gone ahead and developed some added rules [dealing with land impacts, closing of wells, etc.].” That’s what is behind the development of a new rule covering the period between completion of a well and its eventual abandonment.

Townsend said the current draft fracking rule was earlier adopted by the legislative committee as a possible new law, and when South Dakota’s legislature reconvenes in January, it is expected the issue of fracking will come up. “The committee, however, had thought it might be more appropriate in a rule,” he said.

With oil production dating back to 1954, South Dakota currently has about 150 producing oil wells, all concentrated in the northwest corner of the state in Harding County, and 100 of what Townsend said are “low-volume” gas wells. This is all in the Red River formation, he said.

“The Red River formation does not require hydraulic fracturing,” Townsend said. “The only fracking we have had in recent times is in some of the shallow gas wells in a shale portion of Harding County, but the hydraulic fracturing there does not compare to the fracking in North Dakota or Pennsylvania. These are low-volume fracks, shallow vertical wells.”