New Pa. Gas Well Standards Clear Regulatory Hurdle

Potter County Today

wellheadsmallerA set of new standards designed to make natural gas wells safer were approved unanimously Thursday by the state’s Independent Regulatory Review Commission. Environmental Protection Secretary John Hanger said the new regulations will, among other things, impose more stringent construction standards on gas wells, making them less likely to allow natural gas to escape and contaminate water supplies or cause safety concerns.

The standards — which are supported by regulators and many gas companies themselves –  now go to the Attorney General for final review.

“When gas migrates from a poorly constructed gas well through the ground, it can contaminate water supplies or build up to explosive levels,” said Hanger. “These strong rules will eliminate or significantly reduce the problem of gas migration from poorly designed or constructed gas wells, as long as the rules are followed or enforced.”

Hanger added that the new rules also will require drillers to report production and waste volumes electronically and to report the chemicals they use in the hydraulic fracturing process. In addition, operators will be required to keep a list of emergency contact phone numbers at the well site and follow steps in the event of a gas migration incident. The regulations improved the well-design requirements to prevent gas migration incidents, including provisions that:

  • Require operators to have a pressure barrier plan to minimize well control events;
  • Require operators to condition the wellbore to ensure an adequate bond between the cement, casing and the formation;
  • Require the use of centralizers to ensure casings are properly positioned in the wellbore;
  • Improves the quality of the cement placed in the casing that protects groundwater.

Once all reviews and approvals are obtained, the regulations will go into effect upon publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.

(Photo by Curt Weinhold)

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