On Tuesday, amidst claims that hydraulic fracturing could be causing earthquakes in some parts of Texas, the Texas Railroad Commission proposed amendments to permitting regulations for injection wells. The proposed rules would require drillers to submit additional information as part of the permit application process for injection wells in areas designated as high-risk for seismic activity.
The proposed rules define an area as “high-risk” if it has characteristics that may increase the risk that hydraulic fracturing fluids won’t be confined exclusively to the injection interval, including areas that exhibit complex geology or a history of seismic events. Permit applicants who want to operate an injection well in a high-risk area would be required to submit information from the United States Geological Survey related to seismic activity in the area of elevated pressure created by the injection of fluids into the subsurface, logs, geologic cross-sections and structure maps. The proposed rules would also allow the Commission to suspend or terminate a permit if seismic activity occurs near an injection well.
“Whether there is a definitive link or not between disposal wells and seismic activity in Texas has not been determined,” Commission spokeswoman Ramona Nye said. “As our agency continues to work with the scientific community to coordinate an exchange of information … we have seen a need for laying the groundwork for some basic industry best practices.” The Commission estimates that the proposed regulations would add about $300 per injection well permit application. The public comment period for the regulations is open until noon on September 29, 2014.
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