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UK Government Publishes Regulatory Roadmap for Shale Gas Exploration

Source: Zyda Law via Mondaq | 15 January 2015

The UK government has published a regulatory roadmap that sets out the series of permits and permissions developers need to obtain before drilling for onshore oil and gas, to provide certainty to investors and local communities about what the permitting process entails. In addition, a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has also been produced by the government by engineering and project management firm AMEC.

The SEA sets out the potential economic and environmental effects of further oil and gas activity in Great Britain, including shale oil and gas production. The assessment was carried out in preparation for the launch of the next round of licenses being made available for onshore oil and gas exploration and production. Two scenarios were measured, a high-activity scenario and a low-activity scenario. The high-activity scenario in the SEA assumes that a substantial amount of shale gas is produced during the 2020s, between 4.32 and 8.64 Tcf, which is up to three times current gas demands in the UK.

Wyoming Again Takes the Lead In Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation

Source: Lewis Roca Rothgerber via Mondaq | 15 January 2014

Wyoming has once again taken the lead in the regulation of hydraulic fracturing. In response to Gov. Matt Mead’s Energy Strategy, the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission adopted rules on 14 November 2013, with an effective date of 1 March 2014, requiring companies to perform baseline water testing before and after spudding a well. This testing must be performed within 12 months before spudding a well and twice after setting production casing or liner, once between 12 and 24 months and once between 36 and 48 months. The testing must be performed on wells within a half-mile radius as approved by the commission.

New Regulations for Oil on Rail Cars To Come in 2015

Source: Fuel Fix | 15 January 2014

Regulations that could force oil companies to use stronger rail cars to move crude likely will be ready in 2015, according to a schedule released by the US Department of Transportation.

Oil companies have increasingly used rail cars to move crude, but recent disasters, including a derailment and massive explosions in North Dakota last month, have drawn attention to the cars’ vulnerabilities. New regulations that could force older tank cars to be upgraded or phased out are under development, but will not be proposed until 12 November and will be subject to a public comment period until 12 January 2015, according to the Department of Transportation.

However, that initial timeline could shift as the process continues, said Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration spokesman Gordon Delacambre.

EPA To Require Southern California Offshore Fracturing Reports

Source: Rigzone | 15 January 2014

Oil and gas companies that are hydraulically fracturing off the southern California coast will have to report chemicals discharged into the ocean under a new rule released by federal environmental regulators.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency published the requirement in the federal register, and it will become effective 1 March. The move comes after a series of stories by The Associated Press last year revealed at least a dozen fracturing operations in the Santa Barbara channel and more than 200 in nearshore waters overseen by the state of California.

Discussion Regarding the Proposed Changes to OSHA’s PSM

Source: OSHA | 30 December 2013

OSHA has proposes to update and expand its process safety management (PSM) standard for the first time since 1992. The agency has put out a request for information, seeking public comments on the proposed changes.

Some general comments to do with the OSHA material include the following:

  • Much of the discussion and justification for changes refer to actual incidents. OSHA seems to be using a case-based approach to process safety.
  • There is considerable cross-referencing to other federal and state standards.
  • It is likely that the number of companies and facilities covered by the standard will increase substantially. Many of them will be small organizations that do not currently have process safety programs.
  • The proposals to do with recognized and generally accepted good engineering practice reflect a healthy focus on engineering.

CSB Proposes Regulation Changes in Wake of Refinery Fire

Source: US Chemical Safety Board | 30 December 2013

In a draft report released to the public, the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB) proposes recommendations for substantial changes to the way refineries are regulated in California. Entitled “Regulatory Report: Chevron Richmond Refinery Pipe Rupture and Fire,” the CSB draft calls on California to replace the current patchwork of largely reactive and activity-based regulations with a more rigorous, performance-based regulatory regime—similar to those successfully adopted overseas in regions such as the United Kingdom, Norway, and Australia—known as the “safety case” system.

The draft report is the second part of three in the CSB’s investigation of the August 2012 process fire in the crude unit at the Chevron refinery in Richmond, California. That fire endangered 19 workers and sent more than 15,000 residents to the hospital for medical attention.

Dallas OKs Gas Drilling Rules That Are Among Nation’s Tightest

Source: The Dallas Morning News | 30 December 2013

Dallas adopted one of the nation’s most restrictive ordinances on natural gas drilling, requiring more than a quarter mile between wells and protected uses such as homes.

The city council voted 9-6 to adopt a City Plan Commission recommendation for a 1,500-ft setback around gas wells. Dallas’ current ordinance requires 300 ft.

The decision came after years of arguments over well safety, toxic air emissions, gas leasing rights, and drillers’ use of hydraulic fracturing. Neighborhood groups joined with environmental advocates to press the city for maximum restrictions.

The gas industry, some residents, and some council members said the industry’s critics were seeking a virtual ban on drilling.

Those arguments surfaced again in statements from the public and council members. In the end, however, council member Scott Griggs’ motion in favor of 1,500 ft never seemed in trouble, and Griggs simply offered the measure without comment.

Spain Alters Environment Law To Speed Industrial Projects

Source: The Washington Post | 12 December 2013

Spain changed environmental rules to speed approvals on industrial projects from pig farms to oil rigs and for the first time will regulate shale drilling.

Authorities will have 6 months to rule on projects based on the potential harm to nature, according to a law published 5 December by parliament that will take effect after appearing in the government’s Official Bulletin. Spanish legislation previously set no clear timeline.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Lars Hubert, exploration manager for shale at San Leon Energy. “It should make permitting easier.” The Dublin-based company has four Spanish licenses to prospect for shale rock and six more awaiting approval.

Peeling Back the Layers of LNG Development—A Primer on the Regulatory Framework for LNG Projects in B.C.

Source: McCarthy Tétrault | 6 December 2013

In an increasingly competitive global market for natural gas, the race to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia is on. With LNG attracting a premium price in Asia, Canada is vying with the United States, Australia, Russia, East Africa and the Middle East to rapidly build the infrastructure required to move LNG to key markets in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China and India. By positioning the LNG industry in British Columbia (B.C.) as a key driver for economic and jobs growth over the next few years, the B.C. government is sending a clear message—the time to act is now.

B.C. is particularly well-suited to unconventional gas production, with shale being the most commonly occurring sedimentary rock in the northeast part of the province. In the wake of the commercial success of shale gas plays in the United States, the nascent LNG industry in B.C. is attracting significant interest from investors as an economically feasible venture. 

However, as LNG project proponents are discovering, there are many layers of policy and regulation underlying the development of the LNG industry. This article will examine the current policy and regulatory framework for the development of LNG projects in B.C., as well as consider some of the challenges facing project proponents.

California’s New Hydraulic Fracturing Regulations: Implications and Next Steps

Source: Holland & Knight via Mondaq | 6 December 2013

California’s Senate Bill 4 (SB 4) is one of the first laws in the United States to regulate hydraulic fracturing. On 15 November 2013, the state’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) issued its first set of draft regulations implementing the controversial new law, in accordance with SB 4′s statutory requirements. DOGGR also issued a notice of preparation of an environmental impact report (EIR), kicking off a year-long process intended to result in final regulations by 1 January 2015.

Comments on the currently proposed draft regulations must be submitted by 14 January 2014. Comments on the scope of the EIR must be submitted by 16 January 2014.

Lack of Clear Regulatory Framework Hampers Indian Oil and Gas Industry’s Attempts To Attract Foreign Interest, Analyst Says

Source: GlobalData | 6 December 2013

India’s New Exploration Licensing Policy X (NELP X) license round, which will take place in January 2014, will struggle to attract major International Oil Company (IOC) participation, leaving the country underexplored and with an increasing dependency on foreign imports, says an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.

According to Idris Shah, GlobalData’s analyst covering upstream oil  and gas, IOCs have grown weary of the lack of a clear regulatory framework for approvals and resolving delays, which makes conducting business and long-term planning difficult. Currently, typical bureaucratic issues are solved on a case-by-case basis, with little or no evidence of due process.

In late October 2013, symptomatic of regulatory fatigue, one of the largest foreign investors BHP relinquished all licenses except the one nonoperated position. Additionally, Statoil and Petrobras considered participating in blocks operated by India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) in 2010 but ultimately declined. Similarly, ConocoPhillips decided against exploring India’s deepwater areas with ONGC.

Recognizing the need to generate more foreign investment, the Indian government made several overtures last year. A more attractive pricing structure for domestic market obligations was introduced in June 2012, based on a weighted average of American, British, and Japanese benchmark gas prices from April 2014. This is expected to increase prices from USD 4.20 per thousand cubic feet (mcf) to between USD 6 and 8 per mcf.

Shah said, “To address the bureaucratic delays, India’s Directorate General of Hydrocarbons has proposed the creation of a single approval entity to help navigate the 70 or more approvals needed to begin exploration. There are also discussions of introducing a system whereby blocks are preapproved for exploration before the round begins.”

GlobalData expects the IOC participation void to be filled with domestic operators such as ONGC, Oil India Limited, and Indian Oil. However, Shah believes that a lack of domestic expertise will limit exploration and development of India’s deepwater areas, in which there are 25 blocks on offer in NELP X.

“The participation of foreign firms in the upcoming NELP X round will be a good barometer of the Indian policy shifts and whether more changes are needed to attract investment away from other areas of global exploration,” the analyst concludes.

Utech To Become Obama’s Top Climate, Energy Adviser

Source: Reuters | 12 November 2013

Dan Utech, a long-time Washington insider on environmental issues, will become President Barack Obama’s top adviser on energy and climate change, a White House official said, a role that will involve tough decisions on power plants and TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

The move had been widely expected after the Obama administration said earlier this month that Heather Zichal, who served five years in the position, would step down.

Utech will help Obama implement his climate action plan, which involves limiting carbon emissions from power plants and the pipeline project that would link Canada’s oil sands with refineries in Texas.

Obama set a June 2014 deadline for the Environmental Protection Agency to propose limits on existing power plants, one of the top US greenhouse gas sources. The rules need to be finalized a year after that.