API: State regulations, industry standards ensure safe fracturing

The American Petroleum Institute periodically briefs and trains state officials and regulators to help them better understand hydraulic fracturing and its importance to shale oil and natural gas development, API executives said during an Oct. 13 conference call with reporters.

Better coordination among industry, regulators, and representatives from academics, environmental, and community groups has strengthened responsible development of unconventional oil and gas in the Marcellus, Fayetteville, Bakken, and other plays, said Marty Durbin, API executive vice-president.

Last week, API held a 2-day hydraulic fracturing workshop in Pittsburgh that was attended by 300 people. Other workshops are planned elsewhere across the US, Durbin said. API has provided briefings to state officials in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio. API was asked to provide training to state regulators in those states.

Durbin said hydraulic fracturing and shale energy are helping “change America's energy landscape for the better.” He said shale development spurs economic growth and creates jobs. Development of the Marcellus shale created 72,000 jobs in Pennsylvania from late 2009 to early 2011, he said.

API has five standards on hydraulic fracturing, said David Miller, API standards director. For almost 90 years API has developed more than 600 standards that promote reliability and safety through proved engineering practices. The American National Standards Institute accredits API standards.

The API program undergoes regular independent audits to ensure compliance with ANSI rules, Miller said.

Fracing standards outlined

Of API’s five frac standards, the ones generating the most interest involve well construction and integrity (HF-1) and isolating potential flow zones during well construction (Std. 65-2), Miller said.

HF-1 addresses the drilling and completion process, and it provides guidance for cementing practices and casing centralizers. It also addresses monitoring techniques during fracing, post-fracing, and post-completion stages.

To ensure that groundwater is protected during drilling, fracing, and production operations, HF-1 outlines how operators and contractors can design and construct wells to prevent leaks through or between any casing strings.

Std. 65-2 provides best practices for isolating potential flow zones, which Miller called an integral element in maintaining well integrity.

Environmental groups and others have questioned whether chemicals used in frac fluid might migrate and contaminate drinking water. API’s HF-2 standard on water management associated with fracs outlines technical guidance on the management, treatment, and disposal of water and other frac fluids.

In the US, industry uses frac jobs on an estimated 35,000 wells/year. API estimates frac jobs on more than 1 million wells since the late 1940s.

API’s other frac standards are:

• HF-3 on mitigating surface impacts associated with fracing. It discusses protecting surface water, soil, wildlife, other surface ecosystems, and nearby communities. It also discusses the state’s role in determining reporting requirements and the regulatory impacts at federal, state, and local levels.

• RP 51R on environmental protection for onshore oil and gas production operations and leases, including frac jobs.

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

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