Technology's Impact on Production: Developing Environmental Solutions at the State and National Level

U.S. Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory DE-FC26-04NT15541

As part of a cooperative agreement with the Department of Energy, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) has been tasked with assisting state governments in the effective, efficient and environmentally sound regulation of the exploration and production of natural gas and crude oil.Task 1. The development of (a) a model framework for prioritization and ranking of orphaned or abandoned well sites; (b) a model framework for disbursement of EPACT funding; and (c) a research study regarding the current status of orphan wells in the nation;

Protecting Our Country's Resources: The States' Case

The IOGCC has been studying orphan wells and the costs and regulations associated with managing these wells since 1992. Over the years, states have been the leaders in implementing innovative programs related to orphan well management. Most oil and gas producing states have established plugging funds derived from taxes on production, fees or other assessments to plug orphan wells. However, while states have established plugging funds, those funds are insufficient to address timely cleanup of the remaining orphan wells. Therefore, it’s essential to establish innovative programs to plug existing orphan wells.

Model Framework for Prioritization and Ranking of Orphaned And Abandoned Wells

Model Framework for Disbursement of Epact Funding

The IOGCC Orphan Well Task Force, comprised of representatives from member states, developed this model prioritization schedule and fund disbursement framework in order to address the requirements related to Section 349 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which provides for the establishment of a program to provide technical and financial assistance to oil and gas producing states to facilitate remediation of environmental problems caused by orphaned or abandoned oil and gas exploration or production well sites on State or private land.

Research regarding the impact of new technologies on environmental protection. Research will (a) identify and document state actions to changing technology and knowledge; (b) how those reactions support state environmental conservation and public health; and (c) the impact of those reactions on oil and natural gas production; and

Task 3. Research assessing emergent technology issues associated with wells nearing the end of productive life. Research will provide a 360-degree evaluation of the issues surrounding these wells including: (a) the location of orphaned and abandoned well sites; (b) well site remediation; (c) plugging materials; (d) plug placement; (e) the current regulatory environment; and (f) the identification of emergent technologies affecting end of life wells.

Groundwork incorporates research from all three project tasks and offers a multi-tiered approach for delivering state regulatory information. Groundwork makes information transfer convenient for researchers of state regulations about oil and gas production.

User-friendly web component is the centralized hub of the program, with well organized information.

Published case studies give first-hand accounts of how states regulate production in their own backyards.

E-blasts bring relevant, timely updates straight to users’ in box.

New Energy Technologies: Regulating Change
Tasks 2 & 3. State regulators are adapting technologies for their own use, but they are also working to adapt regulations for the new technologies used in exploration and production. Most states are working to modify oil and gas rules that were instituted 20-30 years ago to account for new knowledge and technologies that make it possible to produce more oil and gas from fewer wells than ever before and to accommodate production from unconventional sources that have recently become technologically and economically viable. This report a identifies the technologies and regulatory processes that are helping oil and gas producers and regulators to protect the environment as they work to produce the energy that the public demands.

Report scheduled for release in late Fall 2009.