This video shows the damage that was done to a vertical well by a horizontal frac job in McClain County. In this case, the frac fluid migrated up through the tubing and went into the oil tanks of the vertical operator overflowing them. This is becoming a weekly, if not a daily, occurrence.
Why? And how does it get solved?
The problem begins with the rule-making process at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Rules determine what and how drilling gets permitted.
The rules have not been changed to address the challenges that come with horizontal drilling. Rule changes take several months and the hearings are dominated by the big horizontal companies. Both OIPA and OKOGA work with big oil companies and testify on their behalf. Almost every attorney that practices with OIPA and OKOGA represents the horizontal drillers and are very adept and experienced at getting their clients what they want.
The judicial process at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission:
The first step is to go before an Administrative Law Judge(ALJ). The ALJ almost always rules in favor of the company wanting to drill and in one case told a protester, “Why do you keep protesting when you know we are always going to let them drill?” The appeal of that decision is the Appellant ALJ, with almost always the same results.
The final step of appeal is before the three Commissioners.
One resolution would be to take every protest before the elected Commissioners. All three are honorable public servants and will almost always do the right thing. This resolution cost upwards of $100,000 to protest before the elected Commissioners. Most small producers stop before they get there.
Oklahoma is the most pro-development oil and gas state. That is a good thing, but only to a point. Almost any company that wants to drill a well can get a permit to do so regardless of the potential harm to vertical well operators, and sadly even at the expense of the environment. The OCC routinely issues permits for these horizontal wells knowing (sometimes even with the horizontal well owner testifying that they will hit the vertical well). Most times horizontal drillers lie at the hearing and say that they will not impact vertical wells and then tell the vertical well operators to shut their wells in, knowing full well they are going to hit them.
Our regulatory body has the responsibility to prevent waste and protect rights. They also have the mandate to prevent oil and gas pollution. Granted they are understaffed. Permitting drilling activity gets almost all of the attention. That needs to change.
OEPA is sponsoring legislation to allow the OCC to self-fund. For 2.4 cents a barrel of oil and the BTU equivalent for natural gas. This would allow the Corporation Commission to fund the staff positions they need to keep up. It would also free up 8 million dollars for the legislature to use to solve the budget problems.We ask the other two petroleum associations to drop their opposition to this bill. Surely all of us that drill for and produce in this state should want a well funded professional regulatory body. The public should demand it!
Video property of Oklahoma News on Youtube. Find official video here.