Before drilling begins, oil and natural gas companies take comprehensive safety measures to ensure water wells, fresh water aquifers and surface water sources are thoroughly protected. Operators and service companies take great care to adhere to regulations and best practices because protecting our water is important to us all.
Through every phase – drilling, completion and production – companies follow strict guidelines under the supervision of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The mission of the OCC is to ensure the responsible development of Oklahoma oil and natural gas resources. There have been no cases of new drilling or hydraulic fracturing operations impacting fresh water in Oklahoma. That record can be attributed to a plethora of safeguards applied to all new wells.
Surface casing, which is oilfield-grade steel pipe, is placed fifty feet below the fresh water reservoir, or treatable water base. This ensures the water is completely sealed off. In saltwater disposal wells, casing is placed at least 200 feet below fresh water. Operators are required to test the surface casing before drilling goes any further.
Each well drilled in Oklahoma is lined with three layers of industrial steel casing, separated by an additional three layers of cement. These six layers help protect freshwater assets. The OCC requires operators to wait eight hours for each layer of cement to set before further drilling.
Operators provide the OCC a full 24-hours notice before they begin each step. Field inspectors can then visit the site to witness the entire casing and cementing process, ensuring everything is set properly and at the correct depths.
Once casings and cement are set, operators are required to perform a mechanical integrity test, which can also be witnessed by an OCC representative. These 30-minute pressure tests ensure no leaks exist. The operator then submits all results in a mechanical integrity test report. For commercial saltwater disposal wells, mechanical integrity tests must be repeated every year. When necessary, operators submit monthly reports related to injection rates, volume, casing and tubing pressure.
All of our families, including people who work in oil and gas, depend on clean water as an essential part of life. That’s why the oil and natural gas industry places the utmost priority on protecting it.
Check back regularly with EnergyHQ.com for more insight to the industry’s environmental protection.