Draft Environmental Impact Report for Well Stimulation in California Released
On January 14th, the Department of Conservation, through its Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, published a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) titled "Analysis of Oil and Gas Well Stimulation Treatments in California."
Senate Bill 4 requires the Division to prepare an EIR pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in order to provide the public with detailed information regarding any potential environmental impacts associated with well stimulation treatments in California.
The public review period for this Draft EIR began on January 14, 2015 and will end on March 16, 2015. Comments on the Draft EIR may be submitted and must be received in writing on or before March 16, 2015. During the comment period, the Department and the Division will conduct six public comment meetings throughout the state to receive verbal and written comments on the Draft EIR.
To access the Draft EIR and detailed information on how to provide comments, click here.
Independent Science Study on Well Stimulation Released
Pursuant to Senate Bill 4, the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) commissioned the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) to conduct an independent scientific assessment of well stimulation, including hydraulic fracturing, in California. On January 14, 2015, CCST released Volume I of the assessment to the public.
Volume I, which is titled "An Independent Scientific Assessment of Well Stimulation Technologies in California: Well Stimulation Technologies and their Past, Present, and Potential Future Use in California", provides the factual basis describing what well stimulation treatments (WST) are, how they are conducted in general and practiced in California, and where they have been and are being used for oil and gas production in the state.
To view or download the report, please visit the CCST website at: http://www.ccst.us/projects/hydraulic_fracturing_public/SB4.php
The full independent scientific assessment will be issued in three volumes. Volumes II and III will be released in July 2015. Volume II will assess the potential impacts of WST with respect to water, air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as induced seismicity, ecology, traffic and noise. And Volume III will present case studies to assess environmental issues and qualitative hazards for specific geographic regions, based on findings in Volume I and Volume II.
Permanent Regulations for Well Stimulation Finalized
On December 30, 2014, the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) approved and filed the final proposed regulations on well stimulation treatments with the Office of the Secretary of State. Documents associated with the rulemaking process, including the final text of the regulations, OAL's approval letter, and the Final Statement of Reasons, can be found here.
"Well stimulation' practices are defined by Senate Bill 4 (Pavley, Ch 313, Stats of 2013) and include hydraulic fracturing (commonly known as "fracking") and other treatments that increase the flow of oil and natural gas to wells and then to the surface for recovery. The regulations, which are to go into effect on July 1, 2015, are designed to protect health, safety, and the environment, and supplement existing strong well construction standards. They address a comprehensive list of issues, including testing, monitoring, public notice, and permitting.
The final regulations were developed over a twelve-month period and are the result of consideration of extensive public input and consultation with other state regulatory agencies. The Department of Conservation made the proposed regulations and revisions thereto available for public comment from November 15, 2013 until January 14, 2014; from June 13, 2014 until July 28, 2014; and from October 9, 2014 until October 24, 2014. During those public comment periods the Department conducted a total of ten public comment hearings around the state. In addition, as required under Public Resources Code section 3160, subdivision (b), the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources developed these regulations in consultation with various other state regulatory agencies.
More background information about the regulations can be found here.
Readopted SB 4 Interim Well Stimulation Regulations Now in Effect
On June 27, 2014, a readoption of the SB 4 interim well stimulation treatment regulations was filed with the Secretary of State. The interim regulations, which first went into effect on January 1, 2014, were adopted by emergency rulemaking to ensure that essential implementing regulations were in effect when Senate Bill 4 became effective. The final text of the readopted SB 4 interim well stimulation treatment regulations and other rulemaking documents can be found here.
DOC's implementation of SB 4 also includes:
- Development of an environmental impact report (EIR) by July 1, 2015. Find out more about the EIR development here.
- Web-based posting of public notices about well stimulation permits applied for and issued by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. Find current well stimulation certifications here.
Water Usage in Hydraulic Fracturing in California
Based on voluntary reporting to the FracFocus Web site, the Department of Conservation estimates that about 300 acre-feet of water were used for hydraulic fracturing operations in California during 2013. For the sake of comparison, the average family of four uses about an acre foot of water per year. In the eastern United States, millions of gallons of water are injected under pressure during hydraulic fracturing, a process that may take days or weeks. In California, much less water is used in each operation and the period of pressuring the reservoir rock is much shorter. Part of the difference between California and other states is the geology. California's folded and faulted geology means that hydraulic fracturing activity tends to occur in vertical wells with a smaller number of stages, typically completed in a few hours. Other states' geology tends to be less folded and faulted, allowing longer-distance, multi-stage horizontal well completions that consume substantially more water.
A report from Boston-based Ceres can be found here. It is an analyis examining water use in hydraulic fracturing that details the process in different areas of the country. The Ceres report, page 20, corroborates on a national basis what the Department has noted in the past about the difference between horizontal and vertical well completions. That is, national averages of water use are about 85 percent lower for vertical completion wells than horizontal completions.
SB 4 requires that oil and gas producers report water usage in all California well stimulation activities as of January 1 of this year.
New Well Search Tools Available
The Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources has two new online tools that make finding information about California wells more convenient. The Division's Well Finder application shows every known oil and gas well in the state. Users can search for a well in a variety of ways and view production information, the well record, and notice/permit information, including whether the Division has been notified that well stimulation is being used.
Also now online is the Division's Interim Well Stimulation Treatment Notices Index, which allows users to view forms submitted by oil and gas operators to the Division about well stimulation operations, as required by the interim regulations supporting SB 4.