BLM announces California oil, gas strategy as CCST issues report

The US Bureau of Land Management’s California state office announced a comprehensive strategy for its oil and gas program in the state after receiving an independent review of well stimulation technologies it asked the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) to conduct in September 2013.

The strategy incorporates results from public scoping on oil and gas development in addition to information from the CCST’s review, and provides internal guidance for processing drilling permit applications and sundry notices, BLM California State Director Jim Kenna said on Aug. 28.

The report, comments, and internal guidance will help lead to better decisions concerning the US Department of the Interior agency’s future management of onshore federal oil and gas resources in the state, he said.

“With these pieces in place, we will be able to both contribute to meeting America’s energy needs and implement appropriate, safe, and responsible measures to protect groundwater and other critical resources,” Kenna maintained.

He said that BLM sought a rigorous, independent expert assessment in order to gain a comprehensive understanding of the best available science and potential impacts of using well stimulation technology in California’s unique geology.

Wide range of expertise

“The authors of this report possess a wide range of technical expertise relative to advanced petroleum production and its impacts,” Kenna said. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Pacific Institute conducted the review, analysis, and synthesis of existing data and scientific literature regarding well stimulation in California. The US Geological Survey conducted a peer review of the report, in addition to the already rigorous CCST peer review process.”

Information from the independent science review will be incorporated into future federal onshore oil and gas lease sales and permitting statewide, according to Kenna. The work is being coordinated with the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) and the California Department of Conservation, which is implementing a similar effort directed by California Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), he said.

In a separate announcement about the report’s release, CCST said that its findings describe current well stimulation activities in California, how, when and where they are currently applied, where they might be applied in the future and how this practice differs from other states.

The report assesses information relevant to the potential future use of these technologies, and how they might or might not directly impact water supply, water quality, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, seismicity, traffic, noise, and the environment, it added. A second, expanded report on the subject is also being prepared for the CNRA in response to SB 4, CCST said.

Using existing data and literature about the nature of well stimulation in California, CCST said its report reached 11 main conclusions, with points that include:

• Well stimulation in California is different from other states primarily because of differences in petroleum reservoir geologies. Hydraulic fracturing has been the main type of well stimulation applied to date and is performed on an estimated average of 100-150 wells/month, compared to a US average of about 2,900/month as reported by FracFocus.

• Fracing in California generally tends to be performed in shallower wells that are vertical as opposed to horizontal; requires much less water; but uses fluids with more concentrated chemicals than fracing in other states.

• The most likely scenario for future oil recovery using fracing is expanded production in and near existing oil fields in the San Joaquin basin, where more than 85% of California’s well stimulation activities now take place. Current Los Angeles basin production does not depend heavily on well stimulation, and similar future production there could likely occur without these technologies.

• Recent US Energy Information Administration reports indicate there may be a new class of very deep unconventional reservoirs in the source rocks themselves, especially in the Monterey formation. CCST’s report said EIA originally suggested in 2011 that 15 billion bbl of recoverable oil exists in these source rocks, but reduced the estimate to 0.6 billion bbl in a 2014 correction. Recovering these resources would certainly require well stimulation, but Lawrence Berkeley Lab investigators found no reports of successful production from the Monterey formation source rocks and questioned EIA’s estimation methodology.

• Current fracing operations in California require a small fraction of statewide water use. An average fracing operation in the state can consume an average 130,000-210,000 gal of water per well, compared with about 4 million gal/well in Texas’s Eagle Ford formation. “Even with the relatively low water use of California operations, [fracing] can contribute to local constraints on water availability given the extreme drought in the state,” CCST’s report said.

• There are no publicly reported instances of potable water contamination from subsurface releases in California. However, more than half of the stimulated oil wells in the state are less than 2,000 ft and potentially could pose a risk for groundwater if usable aquifers are nearby. “California needs to develop an accurate understanding about the location, depth, and quality of groundwater in oil- and gas-producing regions in order to evaluate the risk of well stimulation to groundwater,” the report said.

• Well stimulation technologies, as currently practiced in California, do not result in a significant increase in seismic hazard. The pressure increases from fracing are too small and too short in duration to be able to produce a felt, let alone damaging, earthquake, CCST’s report said. “In contrast, disposal of water produced from oil and gas operations into deep injection wells has caused felt seismic events in several states,” it continued. “Expanded oil production for any reason, including expanded use of [fracing], would lead to increased volumes of produced water which, if injected underground, could increase seismic hazards.”

• Overall, in California, using today’s industry practices, the direct environmental impacts of well stimulation activities appear to be relatively limited. If these well stimulation technologies enable a significant increase in future production, the primary impacts on California's environment will likely be caused by the higher production in general, the report said.

BLM’s California state office also published results from more than 130 public comments on possible oil and gas development for the Hollister Field Office’s Environmental Impact Statement for a Resource Management Plan amendment, and an instruction memorandum directing its field offices to request information the state requires under SB 4, as well as information BLM already requires, when processing drilling permit applications and other notices.

Contact Nick Snow at

Related Articles

PHMSA proposes pipeline accident notification regulations

07/02/2015 The US Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed new federal oil and gas pipeline accident and notification regulations. ...

BHI: US oil rig count rises for first time in 30 weeks

07/02/2015 A sudden 12-unit jump in oil-directed rigs during the abbreviated week ended July 2 represented their first rise since Dec. 5, 2014, and helped lif...

FourPoint Energy to acquire Anadarko basin assets from Chesapeake

07/02/2015 FourPoint Energy LLC, a privately owned Denver company, plans to acquire oil and gas assets from Chesapeake Energy Corp. subsidiaries Chesapeake Ex...

Puma Energy completes purchase of Murco’s UK refinery, terminals

07/02/2015 Singapore-based Puma Energy Group Pte. has completed its purchase of UK midstream and downstream assets from Murco Petroleum Ltd., a subsidiary of ...

BP to settle federal, state Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7 billion

07/02/2015 BP Exploration & Production Inc. has agreed in principle to settle all federal and state claims arising from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon inciden...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil prices plummet on crude inventory build, Iran deadline extension

07/02/2015 Oil prices plummeted more than $2/bbl July 1 to settle at a 2-month low on the New York market after a weekly government report showed the first ri...

API to issue recommended practice to address pipeline safety

07/01/2015 The American Petroleum Institute expects to issue a new recommended practice in another few weeks that addresses pipeline safety issues, but the tr...

Shell Midstream Partners takes interest in Poseidon oil pipeline

07/01/2015 Shell Midstream Partners LP has completed its acquisition of 36% equity interest in Poseidon Oil Pipeline Co. LLC from Equilon Enterprises LLC, a s...

Shell makes FID on Appomattox deepwater development in Gulf of Mexico

07/01/2015 Royal Dutch Shell PLC has taken a final investment decision (FID) on the Appomattox deepwater development, authorizing construction and installatio...
White Papers

Definitive Guide to Cybersecurity for the Oil & Gas Industry

In the Oil and Gas industry, there is no single adversary and no single threat to the information tech...

UAS Integration for Infrastructure: More than Just Flying

Oil and gas companies recognize the benefits that the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems (UAS) c...

Solutions to Financial Distress Resulting from a Weak Oil and Gas Price Environment

The oil and gas industry is in the midst of a prolonged worldwide downturn in commodity prices. While ...
Sponsored by

2015 Global Engineering Information Management Solutions Competitive Strategy Innovation and Leadership Award

The Frost & Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognise companies in a variety of regional and global...
Sponsored by

Three Tips to Improve Safety in the Oil Field

Working oil fields will always be tough work with inherent risks. There’s no getting around that. Ther...
Sponsored by

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by
Available Webcasts

Operating a Sustainable Oil & Gas Supply Chain in North America

When Tue, Oct 20, 2015

Short lead times and unpredictable conditions in the Oil & Gas industry can create costly challenges in supply chains. By implementing a LEAN culture of continuous improvement you can eliminate waste, increase productivity and gain end-to-end visibility leading to a sustainable and well-oiled supply chain.

Please join us for this webcast sponsored by Ryder System, Inc.


On Demand

Leveraging technology to improve safety & reliability

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

Attend this informative webinar to learn more about how to leverage technology to meet the new OSHA standards and protect your employees from the hazards of arc flash explosions.


The Resilient Oilfield in the Internet of Things World

Tue, Sep 22, 2015

As we hear about the hype surrounding the Internet of Things, the oil and gas industry is questioning what is different than what is already being done. What is new?  Using sensors and connecting devices is nothing new to our mode of business and in many ways the industry exemplifies many principles of an industrial internet of things. How does the Internet of Things impact the oil and gas industry?

Prolific instrumentation and automation digitized the industry and has changed the approach to business models calling for a systems led approach.  Resilient Systems have the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining their central purpose.  A resilient system, such as Maximo, allows an asset intensive organization to leverage connected devices by merging real-time asset information with other critical asset information and using that information to create a more agile organization.  

Join this webcast, sponsored by IBM, to learn how about Internet of Things capabilities and resilient systems are impacting the landscape of the oil and gas industry.


Taking the Headache out of Fuel License and Exemption Certificates: How to Ensure Compliance

Tue, Aug 25, 2015

This webinar, brought to you by Avalara, will detail the challenges of tax document management, as well as recommend solutions for fuel suppliers. You will learn:

-    Why it’s critical to track business partner licenses and exemption documents
-    The four key business challenges of ensuring tax compliance through document management
-    Best practice business processes to minimize exposure to tax errors


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected