What is Hydraulic Fracturing

What is Hydraulic Fracturing

Contrary to many media reports, hydraulic fracturing is not a “drilling process.” Hydraulic fracturing is used after the drilled hole is completed. Put simply, hydraulic fracturing is the use of fluid and material to create or restore small fractures in a formation in order to stimulate production from new and existing oil and gas wells. This creates paths that increase the rate at which fluids can be produced from the reservoir formations, in some cases by many hundreds of percent.

The process includes steps to protect water supplies. To ensure that neither the fluid that will eventually be pumped through the well, nor the oil or gas that will eventually be collected, enters the water supply, steel surface or intermediate casings are inserted into the well to depths of between 1,000 and 4,000 feet. The space between these casing “strings” and the drilled hole (wellbore), called the annulus, is filled with cement. Once the cement has set, then the drilling continues from the bottom of the surface or intermediate cemented steel casing to the next depth. This process is repeated, using smaller steel casing each time, until the oil and gas-bearing reservoir is reached (generally 6,000 to 10,000 ft). A more detailed look at casing and its role in groundwater protection is available on the FracFocus website.

what is hydraulic fracturing

With these and other precautions taken, high volumes of fracturing fluids are pumped deep into the well at pressures sufficient to create or restore the small fractures in the reservoir rock needed to make production possible.

More detailed information on Hydraulic Fracturing is available on www.FracFocus.org.

News

RBDMS WellFinder Adds Kansas Data

The state of Kansas has joined 13 other oil and gas states whose well data is now featured in the RB...

Updated State Guide Addresses Seismicity Induced by Fluid Injection

The State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange (Exchange) released today a third edition of its report on...

FracFocus Launches New Public Website

GWPC and IOGCC are happy to announce that a new and updated FracFocus.org web site has arrived for t...

California’s RBDMS 3.0: WellSTAR Release 4 Goes Live

The fourth release of California’s RBDMS 3.0 upgrade (WellSTAR - Well Statewide Tracking and Repor...

Publications

06/2021

Injection Wells: A Guide to Their Use, Operation, and Regulation (2021 Update)

The purpose of this guide is to provide introductory information about groundwater and the Underground Injection Control Program. The guide is intended for a broad audience and avoids the use of technical jargon to the extent possible in describing groundwater and UIC concepts. 

03/2021

Potential Induced Seismicity Guide: A Resource of Technical and Regulatory Considerations Associated with Fluid Injection

The State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange (Exchange) released today a third edition of its report on induced seismicity, "Potential Induced Seismicity Guide: A Resource of Technical and Regulatory Considerations Associated with Fluid Injection." In addition to providing updated science surrounding seismicity induced by the injection of fluids in Class II disposal wells, this latest edition expands on the topic to include seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing and Carbon Capture, Use and Storage (CCUS).

01/2021

Well Integrity Regulatory Elements for Consideration: 2021 Edition

These "Regulatory Elements for Well Integrity" are intended to provide regulators with a set of ideas to consider when improving oversight of the permitting, construction, operation and plugging of oil and gas wells. The Elements were developed by a group of state officials who met informally in conjunction with GWPC meetings in Nashville, Tennessee (2012); Sarasota, Florida (2012); and St. Louis (2013). The elements were updated by a small group of state officials in July 2020.

09/2020

State of Kansas Class II UIC Program Peer Review

Published September 2020

04/2020

State of California Class II UIC Program Peer Review

This report is a snapshot of the California Class II UIC program as it existed in June 2018. The review team performed an in-depth review of the California UIC Class II program via a review of California laws and regulations, responses to a questionnaire, and a two-day state interview of DOGGR, SWRCB and Regional Water Board staff and management involved in the UIC program.

09/2019

New Mexico Class II UIC Program Peer Review

In September, 2019 the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (OCD) requested that the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) conduct a focused Peer Review of their Class II UIC program. These reviews were reinitiated nearly 4 years ago as part of the State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange (a joint project of the GWPC and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC)). Reviews have been conducted in 5 states since 2015. They involve an evaluation of the effectiveness of a state’s Class II UIC program, which demonstrates the ability of the UIC program to protect USDWs and public health. Equal effectiveness with Section 1422 SDWA programs is the standard required of Section 1425 delegated programs. This report details the findings of the peer review team, provides feedback on positive aspects of the program and offers suggestions for enhancing the effectiveness of the Class II UIC program managed by the OCD

06/2019

2019 Exchange Peer Assessment: Colorado Well Integrity Regulations

The State Oil & Gas Regulatory Exchange (the Exchange) released today a Peer Assessment of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's Well Integrity program. The Exchange is an outreach program led by the states and facilitated by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission with a mission to assist states’ efforts to continuously improve their oil and gas regulatory programs. In 2018, COGCC requested the Exchange conduct a peer assessment of the Commission’s Well Integrity regulations as well as other topics. Through this peer assessment by the Exchange Assessment Team, the Commission sought to obtain the perspective of other state oil and gas regulators on Colorado’s regulatory regime that specifically focused on insights into best practices and leading edge thought among state oil and gas regulators from around the country. The review team was tasked to identify any perceived regulatory gaps or inefficiencies, insights into other states’ approaches to regulating the same or similar topics, and suggested modifications to existing or addition of new rules. 

06/2019

Produced Water Report: Regulations, Current Practices & Needs

The GWPC released a 'Produced Water Report' on June 24, 2019, that examines current regulations, practices, and research needed to expand the use of produced water, a byproduct of oil and gas production, as a resource.

Led by its member states, the GWPC brought together a collaboration of scientists, regulatory officials, members of academia, the oil and gas industry, and environmental groups to explore roles produced water might play in developing greater water certainty. The report consists of three focused modules which include:

  • Module 1: Current Legal, Regulatory & Operational Frameworks
  • Module 2: Produced Water Reuse in Unconventional Oil & Gas Operations
  • Module 3: Produced Water Reuse & Research Needs Outside Oil & Gas Operations

Freshwater stress is driven by rising populations, regional droughts, declining groundwater levels and several other factors. When surface water is scarce, communities and industries typically turn to groundwater to meet their freshwater needs.  Produced water may become a resource that could reduce the use of freshwater for some of these needs in specific locations.  

11/2017

2017 Revision: Potential Injection Induced Seismicity Associated With Oil & Gas Development: A Primer On Technical & Regulatory Considerations Informing Risk Management & Mitigation

States First, an initiative of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council, is pleased to announce the release of its Second Edition of the report entitled “Potential Injection-Induced Seismicity Associated with Oil & Gas Development:  A Primer on Technical and Regulatory Considerations Informing Risk Management and Mitigation.”  This 2017 revision of the 2015 report contains numerous additions, updates, clarifications and corrections which will help regulators and the public understand aspects of induced seismicity and its relationship to underground injection and hydraulic fracturing.  The report was developed by a workgroup consisting of scientists, engineers and regulators and represents a consensus view on the issues surrounding induced seismicity.  For further information about this report please contact Mike Nickolaus at the GWPC <a href=

11/2017

State Oil And Natural Gas Regulations Designed To Protect Water Resources (3rd Edition)

The Ground Water Protection Council is pleased to announce the release of its report “State Oil and Natural Gas Regulations Designed to Protect Water Resources”, Third Edition.  This report provides a compiled list of regulatory elements such as permitting, well integrity, hydraulic fracturing, well plugging, pits, tanks and spill management.  These are presented in a graphical form which details the number of states that implement them.  In addition, the report describes the regulatory framework under which oil and natural gas field operations are managed and suggests a series of regulatory considerations for agencies to review and, as appropriate, implement.  The report covers regulations as of January, 2016.

11/2017

State Of West Virginia Class II UIC Peer Review

The Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) conducts the Class II UIC Peer Review process under the joint GWPC and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) “StatesFirst” Initiative. The purpose of this process is to assess the effectiveness of Class II UIC programs that have been delegated to states under Sections 1422 or 1425 of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The peer review of the Class II UIC program administered by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Oil and Gas (OOG) was conducted by a review team made up of UIC managers and technical staff from state Class II agencies of states outside of the USEPA region in which West Virginia resides (Region 3). This included an in-state interview of OOG staff and management at the OOG office in Charleston, West Virginia on March 21, 2017. The in-state interview was based on responses to a comprehensive questionnaire completed by the state UIC staff and follow-up questions posed to the UIC staff during the interview. In addition, the interview team members reviewed the state’s statutes and rules governing the UIC program and other materials provided by the state.

05/2017

Underground Gas Storage Regulatory Considerations

A national Natural Gas Storage Work Group released this report on underground gas storage that evaluates potential vulnerabilities at gas storage operations and identifies prospective regulatory responses for consideration by state and federal agencies. Most underground gas storage facilities have safe histories of operation and allow large supplies of gas to be stored during times of low demand, and withdrawn from storage when demand for natural gas is high; thereby reducing the need for larger transmission pipelines and allowing for continuous supply of gas in the event of supply interruptions. However, when an accident occurs it can have dramatic impacts to public health, safety and the environment. The work group, which was led by states from across the country and was organized by the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and Ground Water Protection Council, developed the report “Underground Gas Storage Regulatory Considerations” to serve as a resource for regulatory agencies and includes input from experts in academia, industry, non-profit organizations, and other state and federal agencies.

02/2017

Ground Water Report to the Nation

Our groundwater resources are in serious need of attention. Abundant, high quality, low-cost groundwater resources are fundamental to the long-term growth and vitality of our nation, yet this most important resource is often overlooked, if not neglected. Attention to the protection and management of groundwater has consistently lagged behind that given to surface waters, meaning that historic and current water resource laws and policies deal primarily with the protection and management of our more visible lakes, rivers, and wetlands.

The purpose of the Ground Water Report to the Nation is to highlight some of the more prevalent threats to groundwater, share sucess stories, and make recommendations for improved groundwater protection and awareness.  

Note: Please visit the Ground Water Report to the Nation topics page for individual chapters of the report.

01/2017

Ohio Class II Peer Review

This review of the State of Ohio was finalized in January 2017 by a team of Class II program managers from other state programs and overseen by the GWPC.  We would like to thank the State of Ohio for their assistance to the review team and we look forward to working with other states as we move forward with additional reviews.

04/2016

State Of Nebraska Class II UIC Program Peer Review

This review of the State of Nebraska was finalized in April, 2016 by a team of Class II program managers from other state programs and overseen by the GWPC.  We would like to thank the State of Nebraska and the staff of the Nebraska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for their assistance to the review team and we look forward to working with other states as we move forward with additional reviews.

11/2015

State Of Utah Class II UIC Program Peer Review

GWPC announces the publication of the first Class II UIC program peer review conducted under the revamped peer review process. This process, a joint GWPC and States First initiative, is designed to assist states by evaluating their Class II UIC programs, recognizing the positive aspects of a program, and offering suggestions for improvement. This review of the State of Utah, which was conducted in November, 2015 by a team of Class II program managers from other state programs and overseen by the GWPC, is the first of what GWPC hopes will be a series of state reviews to be conducted in the future.  We would like to thank the State of Utah and the staff of the Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining for their assistance to the review team and we look forward to working with other states as we move forward into 2016 and beyond.

09/2015

Potential Injection-Induced Seismicity Associated with Oil & Gas Development: A Primer on Technical and Regulatory Considerations Informing Risk Management and Mitigation

Thirteen states partnered through a multi-state initiative called StatesFirst in 2015 to share and summarize current knowledge related to earthquakes potentially caused by human activity, otherwise referred to as induced seismicity.

The work group comprised of members of state oil and natural gas and geological agencies and other advisory experts from academia, industry, non-profit organizations and federal agencies released a Primer to provide a guide for regulatory agencies to evaluate and develop strategies to mitigate and manage risks of injection induced seismicity. The Primer also outlines how states can best provide information to the public in a transparent and effective manner.

01/2015

State Oil And Gas Regulations Designed To Protect Water Resources

In step with dramatic industry growth over the past five years, states have substantially improved ground water protection laws and regulations governing oil and natural gas production. State regulatory strategies differ in response to unique local circumstances and characteristics; over time, they evolve to address public concerns about the safety and environmental impact of oil and gas development, as well as rapidly changing technologies, new field discoveries, revised leading operational practices, internal and external reviews, and regulatory experience.

04/2014

Overview Of Groundwater Protection Regulations In Oil And Gas States

This report is part of an update to the Ground Water Protection Council’s 2009 Report, State Oil and Gas Regulations Designed to Protect Water Resources.1 The purpose is to document and outline the range of definitions and requirements for protecting groundwater, based on the regulations of oil and gas agencies and water quality protection agencies in 27 oil and gas producing states. The report is divided into two parts, the first documents the groundwater protection standards for oil and gas agencies and the second part addresses the standards for the water quality protection agencies within the same states. The scope is limited to an overview of regulations that address groundwater quality protection standards through policy statements, definitions, technical requirements such as well casing and cementing depths, groundwater classification and groundwater protection standards. 

11/2013

OPPORTUNITIES TO PROTECT DRINKING WATER SOURCES AND ADVANCE WATERSHED GOALS THROUGH THE CLEAN WATER ACT

The topic of induced seismicity, or earthquakes caused by human activities, and in particular seismicity associated with hydraulic fracturing and disposal wells, has been the source of heightened interest and controversy over the past several years. To help disseminate factual information on the subject, the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and its research arm, the Ground Water Research and Education Foundation (GWREF), decided to include sessions on induced seismicity in two of the organization’s 2013 conferences.

08/2011

State Oil & Gas Regulations Designed To Protect Water Resources

The role of state oil and gas agencies in protecting groundwater through investigation and regulatory reform.

04/2009

Shale Gas Primer

A primer on the development of shale gas reservoirs through hydraulic fracturing and other means.

Events

02/09/2021 – 08/31/2021

The Ground Water Protection Council is pleased to present a FREE monthly educational series from January– August 2021, focusing on the latest issues related to groundwater protection and underground injection control across the country.

Geared toward our state members, federal partners, and industry and academic communities, these virtual webinars will cover a variety of topics.

09/26/2021 – 09/29/2021

The GWPC brings it all together with an in-person multi-day Annual Forum conference in the month of September. The GWPC Annual Forum is the place for attendees to continue the discussion on topics of importance through live sessions, interactive roundtables and discussion groups, and networking opportunities. Registration fees and hotel information will be announced soon.

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