UK Minister Reveals Oil, Gas Regulator Details

Source: Rigzone | 16 June 2014

The new regulator for the UK’s oil and gas industry was named, and its Aberdeen headquarters confirmed, by Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander at an industry event in Aberdeen on 12 June.

In a speech outlining the UK government’s vision of future of the oil and gas industry, Alexander noted that the North Sea is a “hugely important asset to our country” while revealing that the name of the new industry regulator would be the Oil and Gas Authority.

Government Issues Emergency Order on Crude Oil Trains

Source: Fuel Fix | 29 May 2014

The Transportation Department issued an emergency order on 28 May requiring that railroads inform state emergency management officials about the movement of large shipments of crude oil through their states and urged shippers not to use older model tanks cars that are easily ruptured in accidents, even at slow speeds.

The emergency order requires that each railroad operating trains containing more than 1 million gallons of crude oil—the equivalent of about 35 tank cars—from the booming Bakken region of North Dakota, Montana, and parts of Canada provide information on the trains’ expected movement, including frequency and county-by-county routes, to the states they traverse. The order also requires that railroads disclose the volume of oil being transported and how emergency responders can contact “at least one responsible party” at the railroad.

US Takes First Step Toward Fracturing Fluid Disclosure Rules

Source: Reuters | 11 May 2014

The Obama administration announced its first steps on 9 May toward possibly tighter regulation of hydraulic fracturing, seeking public input on whether companies should be required to disclose the contents of fluids used in the oil and natural gas drilling technique.

The US Environmental Protection Agency said it would gather public comment for 90 days on whether to require chemical manufacturers to disclose the contents of fluids they inject into shale seams to release trapped oil or gas.

Fracturing technology has sparked a boom in US energy production, but critics worry that it is polluting drinking water supplies. The environmental group Earthjustice petitioned the EPA to consider the rules on fracturing fluids.

“Today’s announcement represents an important step in increasing the public’s access to information on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing activities,” said James Jones, EPA’s assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

UK Ministers Want To Change Trespass Law To Boost Shale Development

Source: BBC | 23 April 2014

UK ministers want to give energy companies the right to run shale gas pipelines under private land, Whitehall sources have confirmed.

The planned move—aimed at kick-starting the hydraulic fracturing industry—will be included in the Queen’s Speech as part of an Infrastructure Bill.

The companies will still need planning permission to drill for shale gas. But they will be able to install pipes to transport the gas under private land without fear of breaking trespass laws.

Prime Minister David Cameron has also indicated that the government could cut subsidies for land-based wind farms when it has “built enough to meet all our targets.”

Industry Opposes Push To Tighten Oilfield Safety Rules

Source: Fuel Fix | 17 April 2014

More than a dozen oil companies and trade groups have lined up to oppose plans to broaden the federal government’s oversight of safety practices at wells, saying existing standards are enough to protect workers nationwide.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration would be foolish to force new and producing wells to satisfy process safety management standards that have governed other industrial operations for decades, said the American Petroleum Institute, Dallas-based Pioneer Natural Resources, the Texas Oil and Gas Association, and other groups in comments filed with the agency.

“Applying (process safety management) to the exploration and production segment of the oil and gas industry is like prescribing painkillers for a paper cut,” said Rick Muncrief, senior vice president of operations for Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources.

The possible new regulations—now at the beginning stages of government consideration—are driven by concerns that reported deaths in the industry nationwide reached a 10-year high in 2012, and that the ongoing domestic drilling boom is putting more workers in harm’s way.

Ohio Will Require Drilling Companies To Monitor Seismic Activity

Source: International Business Times | 15 April 2014

State geologists in Ohio have concluded that a bout of small but abnormal earthquakes in the northeast of the state last month probably rippled from nearby hydraulic fracturing operations, a conclusion that is likely to make waves in Texas, Oklahoma, and other states that are investigating whether fracturing is causing minor earthquakes.

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water, sand, and chemicals down into wells and horizontal pipes to crack open rock and extract oil and gas. Often, the wastewater created is dumped back into the ground, which, according to the US Geological Survey, is linked to a sixfold increase in earthquakes from 2000 to 2011.

Last month, Ohio regulators indefinitely shut down Hilcorp Energy’s fracturing operation near the Pennsylvania border after five earthquakes, one of 3.0 magnitude, rattled Ohioans.

In response to the geologists’ conclusion, the Ohio Natural Resources Department announced a new permitting policy on 11 April that requires companies to install seismic monitors before fracturing within 3 miles of a known fault or areas of seismic activity. If the monitors detect a seismic event greater than 1.0 magnitude, the company must halt drilling while regulators investigate whether the hydraulic fracturing caused the seismic quiver.

Methane Guidance Suggests EPA Considering Sweeping New Petroleum Regulations

Source: E&E Publishing | 31 March 2014

The entire natural gas system could be subject to new US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations under the White House interagency guidance on methane released on 28 March.

The 15-page document, which was called for under the president’s Climate Action Plan last year, instructs the agency to consider regulating the potent short-lived greenhouse gas at each of five stops along the natural gas supply chain. Opportunities for future rules include hydraulically fractured wells that produce oil along with gas, leaky production and transportation infrastructure, pneumatic devices, compressor stations and liquid unloading—the devises that keep oil and gas flowing from the wellhead.

The EPA has previously said it will release white papers to assess opportunities for methane reduction in each of these areas.

Those papers will be released this spring and will undergo independent technical review and public comment. The agency will then announce this fall whether it will move forward with any new regulatory actions in any of these areas. If it does, the guidance of 28 March commits the agency to finalize those rules by the end of 2016—before Obama’s second term draws to a close.

White House energy and climate adviser Dan Utech, who lead the interagency task force that produced the guidance, said the EPA will take steps to ratchet down methane from oil and natural gas regardless of whether it decides to develop regulations.

“We know that there are a lot of cost-effective reductions that are available out there,” Utech said on a call with reporters.

EU Votes on Oil and Gas Environmental Rules Aimed at Competitiveness

Source: ESI Africa | 20 March 2014

In mid-March 2014, the European parliament voted on new environmental impact assessment rules to make that region more competitive without compromising on the environment, the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP) says.

“While not imposing unnecessary requirements on the upstream oil and gas industry, the new rules will guarantee that any development, including exploration for shale gas, will be subject to strict environmental standards,” Roland Festor, OGP’s director for EU affairs, said.

The new rules confirmed the existing differentiation between exploration and production of hydrocarbons. It will ensure that the requirements for environmental protection become more stringent as a project progresses. This way, time and resources will be applied where they matter; on full environmental studies once a project’s economic potential is confirmed and its development is going ahead.

New EU Environment Rules on Oil and Gas Projects

Source: Energy Global | 14 March 2014

A European Parliament vote on new environmental impact assessment rules is a step forward in making Europe more competitive without compromising on the environment, the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (OGP) said.

“While not imposing unnecessary requirements on the upstream oil and gas industry, the new rules will guarantee that any development, including exploration for shale gas, will be subject to strict environmental standards,” said Roland Festor, OGP’s Director for EU affairs. 

The new rules confirm the existing differentiation between exploration and production of hydrocarbons. They will ensure that the requirements for environmental protection become more stringent as a project progresses. This way, time and resources will be applied where they matter: on full environmental studies once a project’s economic potential is confirmed and its development is going ahead.

BOEM Releases Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Survey for Offshore Atlantic Geological and Geophysical Activity

Source: BakerHostetler via Mondaq | 14 March 2014

On 10 March, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in cooperation with NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service and pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, released its final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate potential environmental effects of proposed geological and geophysical survey activities on the southern and mid-Atlantic US Outer Continental Shelf, a step toward allowing offshore oil and gas drilling in the area.


Column: What Is OSHA’s Authority Offshore?

Source: Lifeline Strategies | 28 February 2014

One of the questions I get most often when I teach my workshop on Safety and Environmental Management Systems (SEMS) compliance is whether companies need to follow US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations offshore. It is a complex question, because it depends on a confusing interpretation of the law plus the expectations of the oil and gas industry.

Most of the answers are found in an OSHA instruction: OSHA Authority Over Vessels and Facilities on or Adjacent to U.S. Navigable Waters and the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The basic rule of thumb on OSHA is that it does not have authority if another agency regulates safety issues. The clearest example is that the Coast Guard regulates inspected vessels, so OSHA does not have authority over them. But, when you look at uninspected vessels (towboats, barges, etc.), it is a lot murkier. The OSHA instruction goes into great detail on how vessel jurisdiction is to be determined.

Whether OSHA regulations apply to offshore facility is a complex one that may be in flux.

Proposed US Energy Rules Would Shield Whales

Source: ABC News | 28 February 2014

Proposed federal environmental guidelines released 27 February would protect endangered North Atlantic right whales from offshore seismic testing aimed at sizing up oil and gas reserves from Delaware to Florida.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management outlined that measure and other protections intended to shield marine life if the government allows the testing, which could be a first step in the development of an offshore oil industry in Atlantic waters.

The Obama administration delayed the scheduled leasing of offshore tracts in Virginia and other Atlantic states following the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The leasing was to begin in 2011 but was pushed back to 2017.

The seismic testing is intended to apply new technology to areas that have not been studied in more than 3 decades, and then with equipment that had limited capabilities to detect energy resources hidden below the ocean floor. The energy industry has said the new, more sophisticated seismic surveys would not only give a better picture of oil and gas deposits but also eliminate areas that should not be drilled.

While the industry estimates that oil and natural gas development in the outer continental shelf would create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next couple decades, ocean protection groups contend marine life shouldn’t be exposed to a blast zone up 50 miles off the coast. They have pushed for a delay in the environmental guidelines until a key study is completed.

“By failing to consider relevant science, the Obama administration’s decision could be a death sentence for many marine mammals,” said Jacqueline Savitz, vice president for US Oceans at Oceana.

In a statement, BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau said the department is committed to “balancing the need for understanding offshore energy resources with the protection of the human and marine environment using the best available science as the basis of this environmental review.”