New regulations covering disposal wells from fracking operations go into effect in Texas beginning in November 2014. The new regulations by the Texas Railroad Commission (Texas RRC, or Commission), the state’s regulating entity for oil and gas, are centered on the possible linkage between seismic activity and disposing wells.
There are four main components of the new regulations:
- Applicants for disposal wells must conduct a search on the U.S. Geological Survey seismic database to determine if there is a history of earthquakes within a 100-square-mile area around the site of the proposed disposal well
- Clarify that the Commission will have the authority to suspend or terminate a disposal well permit if there is any indication from scientific data that seismic activity in the area could occur due to the disposal well
- Under the new regulations, disposal well operators will have to disclose annual reported volumes and pressures more frequently if the Commission determines that there is a need for the information
- The applicant of the disposal well will be required to provide information to the Commission to demonstrate that disposal fluids will be confined when the well is located in an area with conditions making the migration of fluids likely
The Texas RRC noted that it was taking proactive steps, just as it did in the past on disclosing chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, well integrity requirements, and water-recycling rules.
“Once again, the Texas Railroad Commission is taking the lead in ensuring our rules follow science in protecting our natural resources while at the same time providing a stable regulatory environment for our oil and gas operators,” Chairman Christi Craddick said in a statement.
A definitive link between disposal wells and seismic activity has yet to be determined, according to the Texas RRC. However, a study in Ohio recently linked earthquakes in the state to certain parts of the fracking operation, according to the digital publication Live Science. And in North Texas, citizens of Denton will be voting next month on an ordinance banning fracking within city limit, according to State Impact, a National Public Radio energy and environmental reporting project for Texas.