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New Standards for Shale Well Construction in Texas

May 25, 2013

Casing and Cementing

Casing and Cementing

Star-Telegram, by Jim Fuquay, Saturday May. 25, 2013

The Texas Railroad Commission on Friday adopted additional well construction rules that specify casing, cementing and other standards aimed at ensuring that hydraulic fracturing operations do not impact groundwater or injection wells.The new rules drew support from observers as varied as the Texas Oil & Gas Association and the Sierra Club. They go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.“It is vital that as the state’s top energy regulator, we update and enhance our rules to continue our agency’s proud legacy of environmental protection and public safety,” said Commissioner David Porter.

One measure mandates a minimum thickness of the cement sheath around casing, the steel pipe lining a well bore. Cement used to set surface casing — the first string of steel pipe that protects groundwater — must be at least three-quarters of an inch thick, and cement on subsequent casing must be at least a half-inch thick.

When cases of water contamination near oil and gas operations have been investigated, the cause is typically found to be poor casing or cementing that allowed drilling fluids, oil or natural gas to escape and migrate.

Deb Hastings, executive vice president of the Texas Oil & Gas Association, in a prepared statement said “the new rule enhances transparency, reflects advances in technology and is technologically feasible for operators to implement.”

Besides the cementing standards, other measures require:
• Pressure testing and monitoring on wells that are hydraulically fractured.
• Additional testing when a well taps a formation less than 1,000 feet below useable groundwater.
• Use of air or water-based drilling fluid until surface casing is set and cemented.
• Updated requirements for well control measures and blowout preventers.
• Additional cementing when an injection or disposal well is within a quarter-mile.

The new well construction rules ensure that hydraulic fracturing operations do not impact groundwater or injection wells.

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