06 May 2014

Sidley Shale and Hydraulic Fracturing Report

Volume 3, No. 18

Federal

EIA agrees to examine effects of ending restrictions on export of crude oil. The Administrator of the Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced that the agency would examine the potential effects of ending the current restrictions on crude oil exports from the United States. The decision came shortly after a request from Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.). Among the issues the EIA will consider are the amount of crude available for export, existing domestic refinery capacity, the costs of modifying refineries, and the impact on domestic gas prices. Based on current projections of domestic oil production, the United States could become a net exporter of oil by 2030.

EPA report identifies regulatory gaps in state drilling waste programs. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) recent “Review of State Oil and Natural Gas Exploration, Development, and Production (E&P) Solid Waste Management Regulations” asserts there are gaps in state regulatory programs to address solid waste from oil and gas development, citing gaps in groundwater monitoring, leachate collection, air monitoring and waste characterization requirements. EPA’s report urges greater compliance with voluntary standards such as the American Petroleum Institute (API) guidelines, Interior Department guidelines and criteria from the State Review of Oil and Natural Gas Regulations. For the federal government to regulate these wastes, Congress would have to remove the current exclusion for oil and gas development under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

DOT seeks information on characteristics of Bakken crude oil. The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently sent information requests to 37 companies with operations in the Bakken shale, seeking information regarding the characteristics of Bakken crude oil. Citing a lack of comprehensive data on Bakken crude oil, DOT is seeking information regarding the crude oil’s flash point, initial boiling point, gas content and corrosivity. DOT also asked whether these characteristics change based on temperature, season or transportation mode. This information comes after a January 2014 announcement from DOT that crude oil from the Bakken shale was more flammable than other types of crude oil.

States

Group of states form coalition to evaluate link between seismic activity and underground disposal of hydraulic fracturing wastewater. The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) and the Groundwater Protection Council (GWPC) have announced a partnership to study, collaborate and share experiences with potential links between seismic activity and the disposal of wastewater from hydraulic fracturing operations. The IOGCC and GWPC also administer the FracFocus website. The initiative, which will be called the State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange, has received interest from Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia.

International

Canadian report identifies opportunities to improve management practices for shale oil and gas development. In a report commissioned by the Canadian Minister of the Environment, the Council of Canadian Academies identified a series of opportunities to improve management of shale oil and gas development. The report focused on prevention or mitigation of impacts associated with well integrity, groundwater and surface water, greenhouse gas emissions, land impacts, seismic events and human health. The Minister of Natural Gas Development for British Columbia, a province with significant shale deposits, questioned the report’s conclusions, noting that hydraulic fracturing had been occurring in British Columbia for more than 50 years without reported contamination incidents.

U.K. announces plan to reduce environmental impacts of shale gas development.<lt;/STRONG> The United Kingdom pledged to adopt a series of measures to reduce the environmental impacts associated with shale gas development. Among the mitigation measures that the government intends to implement are programs to monitor and capture GHG emissions, and to minimize GHG emissions, water demands and vehicle movements. The United Kingdom has significant shale gas resources and recent reports suggest that the shale gas industry could generate more than $50 million (USD) of investments over the next 18 years.

Sinopec purchases share of Canadian LNG project. The China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec) agreed to acquire a 15% interest in Canadian liquefied natural gas (LNG) project headed by Malaysian oil company Petronas. Under the agreement, Sinopec will receive 1.8 million tons of LNG per year and can purchase an additional 3 million tons per year from Petronas. Other shareholders in the project are Japex Montney Ltd., Petroleum Brunei, and Indian Oil Corp. The LNG facility is expected to be fully operational by 2019 and will create 650 permanent jobs, along with as many as 45,000 construction jobs.

Studies

Study asserts that seismic activity is caused by oil and gas wastewater disposal. In a presentation at the Seismological Society of America’s annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, researchers claimed to have identified a correlation between oil and gas wastewater disposal wells and seismic activity in Oklahoma. The researchers stopped short of claiming a definitive between seismic activity and the injection wells, calling correlation “likely.” While the study did not specifically name injection wells under review, the description appears to match a cluster of wells in southeastern Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Geological Survey had previously studied the same wells and found no direct link between oil and gas activity and increased seismic activity.

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