At the end of last week, EPA and BLM each released draft requirements relating to fracking. EPA released draft Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class II well permitting guidance for fracking activities that use diesel fuels. BLM released draft rules requiring public disclosure of fracking chemicals used on public and Indian lands.
The EPA guidance applies the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) and regulations to fracking activities using diesel fuel. The injection of fracking fluids or propping agents, other than diesel fuels, are excluded from the requirements of the SDWA by the 2005 Energy Policy Act. EPA concludes in the guidance that fracking operations that use diesel fuel as a fracking fluid or propping agent are subject to Class II UIC permitting requirements for oil and gas activities. To determine whether diesel fuels are used in fracking, EPA proposes to use six Chemical Abstracts Service Registry Numbers (CASRNs) that are commonly identified as diesel fuels. EPA also proposes alternative permit terms and area of review delineation methods specific to wells used for fracking operations. EPA has requested comments on the proposed guidance relating to the use of the six CASRNs to identify the use of diesel fuels and data relating to the volumes and frequency of diesel fuels currently used in fracking operations.
The BLM draft rule regulates fracking operations on public and Indian land. The rule applies to “well stimulation,” described as “activities conducted in an individual well bore designed to increase the flow of hydrocarbons from the rock formation to the well bore by modifying the permeability of the reservoir rock,” (i.e. acidizing or fracking). The rule requires approval of the engineering design for fracking operations in connection with the existing approval process for general well drilling activities. Wells that are already generally approved would require an additional approval for fracking operations. The rule also requires a mechanical integrity test, a cement bond log to assess the impact on water, an estimate of the total volume of fluid that will be used and a plan for the handling of recovered fluids. The rule imposes monitoring and reporting requirements, including post-operations disclosure of the fluids used and the actual volumes of fluids and dimensions of the well. BLM says it plans to finalize the rule by the end of the year.
Co-Authored by Michael Mills and Robin Seifried.