Posts Tagged ‘TNRCC’

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.

BY JACK Z. SMITH

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.

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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.

Special Board Meeting

 November 7, 2011 at 1:00 p.m.

333 Guadalupe Street, Room 100 (tentative)

Austin, Texas 78701

AGENDA

  1. Call to order
  2. Roll call and certification of quorum
  3. Consideration and possible action on immediate withdrawal of the Board’s proposed rules 22 Texas Administrative Code §851.33 and §851.34 and the Board’s proposed amendment to 22 Texas Administrative Code §851.10
  4. Consideration and possible action on posting of a Board initiated Advisory Opinion concerning the re-affirmation of the exemption of exploration and development of oil, gas, or other energy resources described in Section 1002.252 of the Texas Geoscience Practice Act
  5. Public comment.  Limited to five (5) minutes per person who has signed up to speak using TBPG’s speaker request form (time may be extended at the discretion of the Board Chairman)
  6.  Adjournment

The Board  may meet in closed session on any agenda item listed above as authorized by the Texas Open Meetings Act, Texas Gov. Code Chapter 551.

If you require auxiliary aids, services or material in an alternate format please contact the Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists at least five working days prior to the meeting date.  Listed below is helpful information if assistance is required. Phone: (512) 936-4401, Fax: (512) 936-4409, email:  chorton@tbpg.state.tx.us, TDD/RELAY TEXAS: 1-800-relay-VV (for voice), 1-800-relay-TX (for TDD).

The Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists has proposed new rules that have been published in the Texas Register.  The Proposed Rules and Amendments were published in the September 30, 2011 edition of the Texas Register. Some of these proposed rules are  related to oil and gas community.  These rules have been under development by an Oil and Gas Workgroup for almost two years.  The intent of the publication of these rules is to garner constructive comments so that a wider discussion of the topic would be possible.  TAPG encourages all its members whether or not you practice in the oil and gas industry to read and provide comment on these rules.  If you have questions then please feel free to email TAPG at TAPG@Hal-pc.org.  I will do my best to find an answer or get an explanation.

Comments on the proposed rules may be submitted in writing to Charles Horton by mail to TBPG, PO Box 13225, Austin TX 78711; by fax to 512/936-4409; or by e-mail.  Please submit comments before October 31, 2011. If you would please send TAPG a copy of your comments as well.  Stay informed and check the TAPG Blog, https://tapg.wordpress.com/, and the website TAPGONLINE.ORG for more information.

The Texas Board of Professional Geoscientists have received a new request for advisory opinion.  The question is as follows:

Re:  Does any and all geoscientific work that is conducted through an academic institution or non-profit research institution or for-profit organization automatically qualify as “geoscientific research” for purposes of Texas Occupations Code §1002.252(4)?

The Draft Opinion:

No. Most work which is conducted for the purpose of influencing legislation, regulation, or for the benefit of the public, in addition to work which is supported by or in collaboration with private entities, requires a Professional Geoscientist taking responsible charge of a geoscientific report or a geoscientific portion of a report, in compliance with Texas Occupations Code §1002.251(c).

This was  published in the September 23 edition of the Texas Register.  We have 30 days from publication to comment.

Any interested person may submit written comments concerning this Advisory Opinion Request and Draft Opinion to:  Charles Horton, Executive Director, P. O. Box 13225, Austin, Texas78711, or by e-mail to chorton@tbpg.state.tx.us or by fax to (512) 936-4409.  Comments must be submitted no later than 30 days from the date of the posting in the Texas Register.  Please reference Advisory Opinion Request #6.

Article 2 of House Bill 2694, passed by the 82nd Texas Legislature and signed by the Governor, transferred from the TCEQ to the RRC duties relating to the protection of groundwater  resources from oil and gas associated activities.

Specifically, the law transfers from the TCEQ to the RRC, effective September 1, 2011, duties  pertaining to the responsibility of preparing groundwater protection advisory/recommendation letters. After the transfer, the RRC will be responsible for providing surface casing and/or groundwater protection recommendations for the following activities:

  • Exploration, development, or production of oil & gas resources – new drilling, other drilling activities including, but not limited to, enhanced recovery injection wells, injection wells for brine mining, injection wells for underground storage of hydrocarbons, seismic exploration and cathodic protection wells, well integrity tests, plugging of abandoned wells, core holes, and micro-seismic boreholes;
  • Subsurface disposal and injection of oil & gas waste – saltwater disposal wells; and
  • Anthropogenic carbon dioxide injection wells and geologic storage facilities under the RRC’s jurisdiction.

The TCEQ and RRC staff are working cooperatively to facilitate the transfer, including transfer of staff to the RRC, no later than September 1, 2011.

TCEQ and RRC staff will make every effort to minimize disruptions to Surface Casing program customers and groundwater protection advisory letter applicants during the transition.

By the week of August 29th , the agencies expect to move the TCEQ’s surface casing staff to the RRC office, located in the William B. Travis Building, 1701 North Congress. Details on specific office location, as well as phone numbers, will be provided as those details are finalized. This notification will be updated periodically as necessary to provide updated information and guidance on changes that impact groundwater protection advisory letter applicants.

Please continue to submit applications for groundwater protection advisory letters to the TCEQ until further notice. If you have any questions pertaining to this notification, please contact the TCEQ’s Surface Casing Program at (512) 239-0515 or by electronic email at SC@tceq.texas.gov.