Search This Blog

Sunday, June 30, 2013

We Don't Need No Regulation

The Railroad Commission of Texas, our State's regulatory agency for Oil and Gas, recently added one inspector to our region.  We now have a total of two inspectors to oversee 3,825 producing gas wells in Tarrant County.  Our nearest field office is located in Kilgore, a two and a half hour trip each way.   When inquiring as to why we don't have a local office in the heart of the drilling region,  they tell us that  Kilgore is historically where they've always been.   Despite a recent push by citizens and legislators for reform, our State has failed to come through.    

This agency doesn't like change.  They seem quite content conducting business as usual.  Even their web site operates on COBOL, a 1970's era programming language.   If you don't believe it, link to their site and try to navigate around.  The web address is:

Operators are required to send in various reports and forms to the Commission.  One such form is the W-15 Cementing Report.  The one shown here is for the 1-H Sue Barnett well which is located within one mile of the Fish Creek Neighborhood.  Notice that this form was signed by Brenda Wise, Reg. Comp. Tech. of  XTO Energy, the Operator, and Jody Reeves, the cementer at Pumpco Energy Services, LP.  Scroll down to page 4 to see these signatures.)  Government Inspectors/Regulators neither witnessed or signed off on this crucial procedure.

This is a prime example of Self-Regulation!

Since we were not acquainted with Pumpco, we looked them up and discovered this disturbing review written by one of their employees:

Granted, this is just one review by one employee, but it begs the question:   Should the public place this much trust in an industry that is conducting business in our densely populated communities when it has the potential to cause serious and possibly irreversible environmental damage?

Anthony Ingraffea, PHD, P.E.Professor at Cornell University, published a paper in October 2012 entitled "Fluid Migration Mechanisms due to Faulty Well Design and/or Construction."  Although his research focuses on the Pennsylvania Marcellus Play,  this information is also relevant for other shale plays.

There is a 6-7% casing failure rate for newly drilled wells and this rate increases over the age of the well.  Therefore, would it be unreasonable to guess that hundreds of wells in the Barnett Shale might already have integrity issues?  Anyone in North Texas who has a cement driveway or a cracked foundation can attest to this!

Our State does not require visual inspection of the pouring of these casings.   [If they did they would have to hire many more inspectors.]  If the State doesn't mandate something, shouldn't local municipalities fill in that gap?  Failed casings can lead to fluid migration and groundwater contamination.  

God bless Texas, the industry-friendly State that prefers the honor system of self-regulation over protection of its citizens. 

Perhaps finances can be appropriated from the Arlington Tomorrow Fund to pay for City gas well inspectors.  More about that later...

1 comment:

  1. The Railroad Commission of Texas was not created for "us." It was created to help industry mediate any issues among themselves.

    They brought so many homeowners/pooled units into the equation with drilling and fracking for shale gas in highly populated areas of North Texas (the Barnett Shale). The completion forms clearly show that the Railroad Commission does not sign off on the paperwork. The forms give that impression with the "titles" of the signers sounding so official.

    It's truly smoke and mirrors regulation. They got us good. Thank you, FM, for highlighting that fact with this blog post.