Posts Tagged ‘TCEQ’

Ethics Meeting

Thursday, July 19

Oil Spills, Ethics and Society:
How they intersect and where the responsibilities reside
Dr. W.C. ‘Rusty’ Riese,
AAPG Distinguised Speaker

David Lea, Oakville Beaver|May 23, 2012 – 3:50 PM

Near tragedy sparks new drilling rules

Near tragedy sparks new drilling rules. Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn. Oakville

In the wake of a potential tragedy in Oakville after a borehole was drilled in a local neighbourhood, Ontario is now strengthening regulations around drilling for geothermal energy systems.
The Dalton McGuinty government announced Friday that vertical, closed-loop drilling for geothermal energy systems will now require provincial approval with the installers also required to consult with a certified geoscientist before drilling.

“I was especially proud of my government for how quickly they acted. The minister’s response was sensible, it was balanced, but it was timely,” said Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn.

The new regulations, which take effect immediately, also require installers to develop an emergency plan before drilling.

Geothermal energy is a form of renewable energy that leverages underground temperatures to heat and cool buildings.

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, Oakville council and the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs called on the Province to regulate drilling for geothermal energy systems after a natural gas deposit was struck in the Maple Grove Drive/Lakeshore Road area during this type of drilling on April 19.

This disturbed pocket of gas leaked into a home about 100 metres away. When the homeowner noticed the sump pump bubbling like a milkshake, Union Gas and the Oakville Fire Department were notified.

It led to a frenzied search by the fire department and Union Gas for the source of the gas leak.

The borehole was eventually discovered and potential disaster averted.

In the aftermath, Oakville Fire Chief Lee Grant said the development of new techniques for installing geothermal energy systems, particularly vertical drilling had created a regulatory gap in Ontario.

Grant said that while there are regulations and safety protocols concerning drilling for oil, natural gas or a well, there are none for digging a deep hole for any other purpose.

The provincial government move to close that gap was applauded this week by Oakville’s public servants.

“Oakville council is pleased that Minister (Jim) Bradley and the McGuinty government have listened to our concerns and the concerns of The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs in acting to strengthen the requirements on borehole drilling for geothermal energy installations,” said Burton.

“The Town supports the Province’s commitment to promote renewable energy sources in a way that protects the health and safety of our community.”

Flynn agreed.

“It makes a lot of sense obviously given the circumstances. I’ll be the first to admit I had no idea there was natural gas under Oakville. With that knowledge in hand it would only make sense if you took a look to see if there was a need for regulation.

“In this case, with the circumstances in Oakville, the evidence is quite clear there is a need for regulation,” the MPP said.

Ted Kantrowitz, vice president of the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition (CGC), said his organization is urging its industry to review the new requirements and to take full responsibility to implement them immediately on all job sites.

Kantrowitz said clarification is needed with regard to who the new regulations will apply to.

“As we said earlier, it is clear this was not a geothermal-specific incident, but could have happened with any non-petroleum driller engaged in drilling a shallow borehole in the area.

“This includes water-well drilling, foundation pile drilling, routine construction drilling, test hole or other types of exploratory drilling, all of which are equally routine in Ontario.

“CGC has records of thousands of geothermal boreholes in Ontario as of this writing; there are tens of thousands of other types of shallow boreholes throughout the province,” wrote Kantrowitz in an e-mail.

“As gas pockets may be found across southern Ontario, and are already anticipated in drilling industry best practice as well as existing regulation, we at CGC will specifically seek clarification regarding whether all Ontario drillers who drill shallow boreholes in southern Ontario will now be required to enforce this temporary regulation — i.e. hiring geotechnical engineers for construction drilling approvals — as we would expect. Given the Town and the Province’s quick and severe reaction on this, I have to believe that these other drillers are just as much in danger of finding natural gas unexpectedly even though they execute due diligence as our geothermal driller did.”

Kantrowitz said the CGC would publicize the new regulations to more than 4,000 Ontario stakeholders on its mailing lists.

The Ontario Ground Water Association (OGWA) supported Burton’s concerns about drilling of vertical boreholes for geothermal heating systems.

The organization issued a statement after the incident in Oakville resulted in the evacuation of a home near the drilling site. The OGWA called for regulation.

The Ministry of the Environment will consult with industry stakeholders in the coming months on the new regulations and will also be conducting inspections to ensure installers are meeting safety standards.

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Christopher C. Mathewson of College Station to the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists for a term to expire Feb. 1, 2017. The board licenses and regulates the public practice of geoscience.

Mathewson is a regents professor emeritus and a senior professor of geology at Texas A&M University. He is a licensed professional engineer in Texas and Arizona, and a licensed professional geologist in Texas and Oregon. He is a life member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Society of American Military Engineers, a fellow of the Geological Society of America, and is a member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, the Division of Environmental Geosciences, and the American Geophysical Union. He is also a member of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical & Petroleum Engineers, American Institute of Professional Geologists, the International Association of Engineering Geologists, the International Code Council, National Association of Geology Teachers and the South African Institute of Engineering Geologists. Mathewson is also a member of the Council of Examiners of the National Association of State Boards of Geology and participates in the writing and review of the licensure examination for professional geologists. He is past president and former executive director of the Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists, and is past chairman of the Texas Section of the Association of Engineering Geologists, the Geological Society of America Engineering Geology Division, and the U.S. National Committee for International Association of Engineering Geologists. He is past president of the American Geological Institute and a former trustee of the Geological Society of America Foundation. He also served as a commissioned officer in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Mathewson received a bachelor’s degree from Case Institute of Technology, and a master’s degree and Doctorate of Geological Engineering from the University of Arizona.

From Energy In Depth

1) Why the huge difference between what EPA found in its monitoring wells and what was detected in private wells from which people actually get their water?

  • Contrary to what was reported yesterday, the compounds of greatest concern detected by EPA in Pavillion weren’t found in water wells that actually supply residents their water – they were detected by two “monitoring wells” drilled by EPA outside of town.
  • After several rounds of EPA testing of domestic drinking water wells in town, only one organic compound (bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) was found to exceed state or federal drinking water standards – an additive in plastics and one of the most commonly detected organic compounds in water. According to EPA: “Detections in drinking water wells are generally below established health and safety standards.”
  • Bruce Hinchey, president of Petroleum Association of Wyoming: “Let me be clear, the EPA’s findings indicate that there is no connection between oil and natural gas operations and impacts to domestic water wells.” (PAW press release, Dec. 8, 2011)
  • In contrast, EPA found “a wide variety of organic chemicals” in its two monitoring wells, with greater concentrations found in the deeper of the two. The only problem? EPA drilled its monitoring wells into a hydrocarbon-bearing formation. Think it’s possible that could explain the presence of hydrocarbons?
  • According to governor of Wyoming: “The study released today from EPA was based on data from two test wells drilled in 2010 and tested once that year and once in April, 2011. Those test wells are deeper than drinking wells. The data from the test wells was not available to the rest of the working group until a month ago.” (Gov. Mead press release, issued Dec. 8, 2011)

2) After reviewing the data collected by Region 8, why did EPA administrator Lisa Jackson tell a reporter that, specific to Pavillion, “we have absolutely no indication now that drinking water is at risk”? (video available here)

  • Of note, Administrator Jackson offered those comments to a reporter from energyNOW! a full week after Region 8 publicly released its final batch of Pavillion data. In that interview, Jackson indicates that she personally analyzed the findings of the report, and was personally involved in conversations and consultations with staff, local officials, environmental groups, the state and the operator.
  • After reviewing all that information, and conducting all those interviews, if the administrator believed that test results from EPA’s monitoring wells posed a danger to the community, why would she say the opposite of that on television?
  • And if she believed that the state of Wyoming had failed to do its job, why would she – in that same interview – tell energyNOW! that “you can’t start to talk about a federal role [in regulating fracturing] without acknowledging the very strong state role.” (2:46) A week later, why did she choose to double-down on those comments in an interview with Rachel Maddow, telling the cable host that “states are stepping up and doing a good job”? (9:01, aired Nov. 21, 2011)

3) Did all those chemicals that EPA used to drill its monitoring wells affect the results?

  • Diethanolamine? Anionic polyacrylamide? Trydymite? Bentonite? Contrary to conventional wisdom, chemicals are needed to drill wells, not just fracture them – even when the purpose of those wells has nothing to do with oil or natural gas development.
  • In this case, however, EPA’s decision to use “dense soda ash” as part of the process for drilling its monitoring wells could have proved a bad one.
  • One of the main justifications EPA uses to implicate hydraulic fracturing as a source of potential contamination is the high pH readings it says it found in its monitoring wells. But dense soda ash has a recorded pH (11.5) very similar to the level found in the deep wells, creating the possibility that the high pH recorded by EPA could have been caused by the very chemicals it used to drill its own wells.
  • According to Tom Doll, supervisor of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: “More sampling is needed to rule out surface contamination or the process of building these test wells as the source of the concerning results.” (as quoted in governor’s press release, Dec. 8, 2011)


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday for the first time that fracking — a controversial method of improving the productivity of oil and gas wells — may be to blame for causing groundwater pollution.

The draft finding could have significant implications while states try to determine how to regulate the process. Environmentalists characterized the report as a significant development though it met immediate criticism from the oil and gas industry and a U.S. senator.

The practice is called hydraulic fracturing and involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to open fissures and improve the flow of oil or gas to the surface.

The EPA found that compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath Pavillion, a small community in central Wyoming where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals. Health officials last year advised them not to drink their water after the EPA found low levels hydrocarbons in their wells.

To Read More Click Here 


FORT WORTH — Preliminary findings from a study of hydraulic fracturing and shale-gas development show no direct link between the controversial process and groundwater contamination, the University of Texas professor who led the study said Wednesday.

Problems in shale fields appear to be related to issues such as poor casing or cementing of wells, rather than fracking, UT geology professor Charles “Chip” Groat told about 150 people at the City Club in downtown Fort Worth. The audience included oil and gas industry representatives and city officials who regulate drilling in North Texas’ Barnett Shale.

The $300,000 study is being funded by UT’s Energy Institute. Groat said a final report is expected to be issued in the next two months. The institute looked at reports of groundwater contamination in the Barnett Shale, the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana and East Texas, and the Marcellus Shale in the Northeastern U.S.

Groat said a major goal of the study is to “separate fact from fiction” and produce accurate information that will help government policymakers adopt wise policies and regulations that “are grounded in science.”

He said the institute also plans an in-depth “case study” of the Barnett Shale, which would include water-related issues and other environmental concerns.

To Read More Click Here:

The Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists met on November 7, 2011 to consider Advisory Opinion #7.  This Advisory Opinion was in response to the reaction to the Proposed Rules published in the September 30th edition of the Texas Register.  These proposed rules dealt with the practice of Oil & Gas.  There were two sections to this proposed rule.  Section 33 dealt with “Permissive Practice” (Voluntary Practice by someone who is licensed) and Section 34 which dealt with unlicensed Practice.  These proposed rules were the result of months of work by an Oil& Gas advisory committee.  The intent was to publish them to gather greater input not to implement the proposed rules.  Yet that was not how the proposed rules were received by the public.

The resulting public fire storm lead the TBPG to initiate Advisory Opinion #7.  At the November 7th Meeting , there were about 30 people in attendance.  Some of the notable people were Dave Rensink, Richard How, Henry Wise, Peter Rose, John Mikels, Scott Daniels and Bruce Darling.  Chairman Kitchens opened the meeting by explaining the process and history of how the proposed rules came about and reassured that this was not a power grab by the Board.  He stated that the Governors office was aware of the activities of the Board.   After his statement the Board proceeded to withdraw the proposed rules.  The Board voted 8-0 to withdraw the rules.  Also as a result, the Oil and Gas workgroup was disbanded.  The Board then laid out the Advisory Opinion.  The Board voted 8-0 to adopt the proposal.  After that the floor was opened for public comments.  Very few people got up to speak.  Two of the people who did speak call for the Board to resign.  Talking to people afterwards they seemed satisfied with how things went.

Below is part of the Advisory Opinion from which the TBPG Chairman read:

The Board has had questions for many years concerning the intent of the word “exclusively” and the phrase “for the benefit of private industry” that is included in the above cited section of the Texas Geoscience Practice Act (Act).  The Board has attempted to determine if this word and this phrase were included in the statute with the intent that some oil and gas activities would not be exempt from the requirements of the Act.  For example, is geoscientific interpretation presented for the sole purpose of securing financing from the public exclusively part of the exploration and development process?  Could the fact that the benefits of oil and gas exploration are not exclusively for the benefit of private industry since the public also benefits in the form of severance tax paid to the state be a cause to require a license?  These are the types of questions that have been posed to the Board in the form of inquiries and complaints over the years.

The Board has had an ad-hoc Legal Interpretation Committee explore the question and this activity did not conclusively resolve the issue.  The Board also encouraged the development of an advisory workgroup to involve the oil and gas community to assist with answering the issue.  Attempts were made to secure wide participation in the workgroup, and included liaison representatives with involvement in the Houston Geological Society, the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and the Society of Independent Professional Earth Scientists.  Over a period of more than a year, the workgroup met and finally petitioned the Board with a rule proposal that would define that certain activities involving oil and gas exploration and development would not be exempt.  All members of the workgroup had ample and equal opportunity to provide input to the rule proposal.  The workgroup members felt that the issue should be made available to a broader audience for further review. 

The Board finally agreed to publish the rule proposal for the purpose of receiving more widespread public input to help with the determination of exemption applicability but only if certified by legal counsel that the proposal was within the Board’s authority to adopt.  Based on the subsequent overwhelming public opinion against adoption of the proposal, and legislative intent brought to the attention of the Board, the Board has withdrawn the proposed rulemaking.