Energy Exchange

EDF issues new framework to help make oil and gas wells safer

The United States onshore oil and gas industry operates nearly one million production wells across 30 states. To protect our health and environment, these wells must be designed, constructed, operated, maintained and closed in a way that prevents leaks and explosions.

To help regulators keep current on leading practices for protecting our environment from the risks associated with oil and gas production, EDF teamed up with Southwestern Energy and dozens of experts in industry, government, academia and advocacy to develop a Model Regulatory Framework for Hydraulically Fractured Hydrocarbon Production Wells in 2014. The framework has been used by states around the country as they have developed or updated well integrity regulations — notably, when Texas adopted several dozen ideas from the framework, blowouts fell 40% (and injuries from blowouts 50%) the next year.

EDF recently launched a new edition of the framework, which contains around 60 improvements based on the latest research and recommendations from oil and gas industry’s technical societies.

Here are some of the key changes in this new edition.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Natural Gas, Water / Comments are closed

If we’re not careful, EPA’s new water reuse plan could lead to more pollution

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency released details of a new plan that aims to address concerns about future water shortages. The Water Reuse Action Plan suggests that by recycling and reusing more wastewater, we can “improve the availability of freshwater” and avoid a water access crisis.

There are certainly a number of opportunities we can and should seize to make better use of our water resources, but the plan leaves out a lot of crucially important details that must be a part of any truly sustainable water plan.

One of the biggest concerns EDF has is how the plan frames (or, more specifically doesn’t frame) important issues with reusing the oil and gas industry’s wastewater.

Oil and gas wastewater is extremely complicated. It’s very salty and it can contain radioactive chemicals from deep underground, toxic substances used in the drilling process, and a slew of other concerning pollutants. What’s in the water varies from day-to-day, well site-to-well site and state-to-state, which makes it even more difficult to set any kind of safety standard for how to treat it.

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Also posted in Natural Gas, Water / Tagged | Comments are closed

Clean water regulators at the brink — Changes to the Clean Water Act spell trouble for New Mexico

Earlier this year, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its proposal to dismantle significant portions of the Clean Water Act. Historic federal protections for some rivers and streams and wetlands will no longer be there — essentially allowing polluters to dump untold amounts of waste into our waterways unless state provisions stop them.

The decision could generate unknown repercussions to waterways across the country, and perhaps no state is more vulnerable than New Mexico.

The reason? New Mexico has very few surface water protections of its own, which means without federal standards, the state is facing an uphill battle to develop the tools it needs in order to step in and prevent polluters from contaminating water.

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Also posted in Natural Gas, New Mexico, produced water / Tagged | Comments are closed

Shining new light on the toxicity of chemicals in produced water

In the United States, onshore oil and gas extraction operations generate nearly a trillion gallons of produced water annually. It is the largest waste stream associated with upstream development of petroleum hydrocarbons.

As EDF has written in numerous posts, this wastewater from oil and gas wells can be complex and toxic. In addition to the chemicals companies use during drilling and extraction, it can contain a wide range of potentially harmful material that already existed in the ground, and can be many times saltier than seawater. There’s a lot of it, too. Some wells produce up to 10 times as much wastewater as they do oil.

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Posted in produced water / Tagged | Comments are closed

New Mexico legislation marks new focus on improved oil and gas oversight under Gov. Lujan Grisham

By Jon Goldstein and Nichole Saunders

When New Mexico legislators adjourned last Saturday, they had a long list of accomplishments for the first session under Gov. Lujan Grisham’s executive leadership. Near the top of that list is a bill that, once signed, will mark the first major legislative reform for the state’s oil and gas industry in over a decade.

House Bill 546 has significant implications for how the state oversees its large and growing oil and gas industry. This includes restoring crucial powers to the state’s main oil and gas regulator and enabling it to protect the state’s air and water resources from oil and gas pollution, as well as clarifying how New Mexico manages the massive volume of oilfield wastewater, or “produced water,” generated by operators. These reforms, championed by Sen. Richard Martinez, Rep. Nathan Small and Rep. Matthew McQueen will begin to deliver oil and gas policy that New Mexicans can be proud of.

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Also posted in Natural Gas, New Mexico, produced water / Tagged , | Comments are closed

Trump’s EPA may weaken restrictions on disposal of oilfield wastewater — here’s what you need to know

Many Americans are aware that we are experiencing a major energy boom. But what many folks may not realize is that with this increase in oil and gas, also comes an increase in waste – specifically wastewater. In fact, for every barrel of oil produced wells can generate 10 times as much chemical-laden wastewater. All told, the industry produces over 900 billion gallons of wastewater a year, and we know very little about the chemicals in it.

Traditionally, companies have pumped this wastewater deep underground, but the growing volume is creating new challenges– leading many to wonder whether there may be different options for managing or reusing it. One of those options is treatment and discharge to rivers or streams.

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Also posted in Water / Tagged | Comments are closed