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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Pennsylvania DEP revising well-plugging regulations

When the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection last revised its well plugging regulations three years ago, the shale boom was a baby.
As a result, the regulations did not address the unconventional wells that dominate the Marcellus and Utica plays — wells that usually have a vertical and lateral component meant to access hard-to-reach natural gas residing in the rock formations.
Now, the department is in the early stages of revising its regulations again.
“Plugging unconventional wells wasn’t an issue in 2011 the way it could be moving forward,” said Kurt Klapkowski, director of the DEP’s bureau of oil and gas planning and program management. “It’s more of a proactive regulation than a reactive one.”
Operators typically plug wells using cements and gels, and often use cast iron plugs to seal the opening and contain the oil, gas and water zones.
Current regulations require operators to file an alternative method form if they plan to plug an unconventional well. The majority of such proposals are approved within days.
But the state department wants to codify unconventional well plugging the way it has conventional wells, a move that could streamline the process in the coming decades when thousands of unconventional wells being drilled now are no longer operational. Conventional well operators must inform the state of plans to plug a well, but they do not need approval. Read more...