State rules on oil and gas well integrity may be getting an overhaul soon, based on revisions proposed by the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency overseeing the regulation of the oil and gas industry.
On Tuesday, the agency announced revisions planned for next year, including new cement quality specifications and standards on the thickness of casing, the pipe at the center of a well. While the amendments would apply to all oil and gas wells, the agency also is looking at new requirements for wells drilled for hydraulic fracturing.
Fracturing involves injecting water, sand and other substances into a well under pressure to free hydrocarbons trapped in rocks. It has created concerns about contamination of underground water supplies, although some studies suggest leakage of oil and gas into water results from deficiencies in wells, not the fracturing process itself.
The amendments are being circulated for comment through Dec. 31.
Forty companies and organizations already have commented on the proposed rules changes, some objecting to specific changes they contend would be onerous, expensive or redundant.
“The rule already requires a well to be properly cased and cemented at the top to protect the groundwater and at the bottom to isolate the productive zone,” wrote Matt Reid, vice president of Cabot Oil and Gas. “There is no shown need for new cementing requirements mid-well on a statewide basis. The existing rule, properly complied with, protects usable quality groundwater and the productive formation.”