Some vertical well operators are concerned about a proposed revision of oil and gas conservation rules determining the responsibility for environmental cleanup in cases involving horizontal drilling.
Leaders of the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance, which represents vertical producers, believe the revisions would unfairly favor horizontal drillers.
At the core of the issue is determining what party is responsible for environmental cleanup in cases when a horizontal well causes fracking fluid and sand to come up through an existing vertical wellbore.
“We need to come to a place where we have a good, reasonable solution so everyone’s interests can be met in a proper fashion,” said Dewey Bartlett, OEPA board chairman.
Devon Energy has proposed language to the corporation commission that would formally place the responsibility on wellbore operators, upon receipt of timely notice of hydraulic fracturing near its wellbore, to actions prior to and during fracturing operations to prevent an environmental impact.
Richard Parrish, an Oklahoma City-based attorney representing the OEPA, told members of the group during a meeting Friday that there have been several recent cases where horizontal hydraulic fracturing resulted in pollution through a producing wellbore and the corporation commission determined the vertical operator was responsible for cleanup.
“The horizontal operator is not being required to limit their frack or concern themselves or make sure the wells being fracked won’t cause purging,” Parrish said. “This is going to be a real problem around the state. We know of at least 47 incident reports of wells purging as a result of horizontal fracks.”
Members of the OEPA are trying to gather support in opposition of the pending revisions and are proposing an alternative revision stating that horizontal well operators giving notice of hydraulic fracturing operations should be required to take reasonable actions to prevent environmental impact.
“There is a need to find common ground for the benefit of Oklahoma,” Bartlett said. “Each one of us represents a company that has an owner and a lot of employees and their families. By us finding a common ground it means the breadwinners will be able to continue to support their family in a good way.”