Well Review & Injection Application Assistance

Over the past year, the issue of groundwater protection has become a hot topic for environmental regulators, the oil and gas industry and environmentalists. Much of the debate has been prompted by concerns that chemical fracturing of reservoirs, or fracking, may threaten drinking water supplies. As a result, scrutiny of underground injection projects across the USA has never been greater.

In California, operators are required to examine all the active and abandoned wells within the local area of influence before any underground injection activities begin. This is in line with United States Environmental Protection Agency groundwater regulations, which are applicable nationwide. The area of influence is defined as the area within a quarter of a mile (0.4 km) of the proposed injection location. “California has a long history of intensive oil and gas production operations,” says Michelle Pasini, President, InterAct, “and the density of oil and gas wells is as much as 300 wells per square mile [112 wells per square kilometre] in parts of the state. The current regulations require a thorough examination of these wells to establish whether there is proper isolation in the injection zone.”

InterAct has performed thousands of well reviews in the Los Angeles basin and the Bakersfield area. InterAct recently won two new contracts, one in the central California coastal area and another for a new customer in Bakersfield, which has over 15,000 wells that could potentially influence the customer’s operations. All of these wells will require re-examination of their construction, geometry and sidetracks.

There are considerable challenges with these reviews, as Lisa Dick, InterAct’s senior project analyst, explains, “Some of the wells were drilled in the 1920s and abandoned for the last time in the 1930s or 1940s. In-depth knowledge of common drilling and abandonment practices per time period is necessary for accurately interpreting the historical records of a well’s construction and abandonment. For instance, wells abandoned in the early 1900s were sometimes plugged with debris or wooden poles. Historical well records can be incomplete. We have to characterise the well and piece together an understanding of the downhole activities over time from whatever records are available.”

InterAct alerts its customers to any wells that cannot be shown to meet the relevant regulatory standards. This then offers InterAct and the customer the opportunity to perform a more in-depth geological and engineering analysis, which can help to facilitate the permitting and approval process by the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources in the California State Department of Conservation.

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