As an engineer, I find misleading conversations and docudramas on the realities of drilling for natural gas frustrating to say the least. So I’d like to take a moment of your time and review drilling 101.
“Drilling is drilling.” Yes, it’s that simple. Even if you missed that day of class, you still graduate with this rudimentary fact. Active drilling…completion procedures…production…well stimulation by hydraulic fracturing – by any other name is still “drilling.”
This activity is currently regulated on the state level and some might ask why drilling is not completely federally regulated. Where should I start? Methods and means of drilling are common but can have characteristic geographic differences that determine the optimal drilling mud system and completion methods to be used. More importantly, each state jurisdiction has regulatory rules for drilling, completion, and production – the number of casings that must be used and where they must be set; cementing requirements; fracture gradient limitations; setback distances of well locations from drilling unit boundaries, etc. Augment this with water production, fresh water resource protections and produced water handling/disposal subject to state regulatory rules and a robust Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Underground Injection Control (UIC) program or, a state-administered program determined by the EPA to meet or exceed EPA standards as a result of regulations developed and continuing to evolve from enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Thus, there exists a strong and comprehensive measure of government oversight presently that effectively accounts for regional geological differences.
No one is disputing that further concern over drilling and production of any sort and the impact on fresh water resources should not be taken up. However, let’s focus our efforts where they will result in the most sensible applications – at the state level where issues of geologic and operational levels are best understood.