By Mella McEwen
The Railroad Commission recently has made moves to address some issues facing the state’s residents and its oil and gas industry.
The commissioners have relaxed requirements for plugging inactive wells, allowing low-producing wells to remain active.
“Our move was to lower the production limits to consider wells active,” said Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton in a telephone interview. “We have a lot of stripper wells in the state that are still producing and we wanted to make sure operators have the flexibility they need to keep operating.”
The requirements to be considered active have been lowered from 10 barrels of oil or 100,000 cubic feet of natural gas per month for at least three consecutive months, to five barrels of oil or 50,000 cubic feet of gas per month in that time. Wells can also be considered active if they produce at least one barrel of oil or 1,000 cubic feet per month for a year.
“The difference between 10 barrels a day or more versus five barrels a day is not a lot, but it’s enough to allow operators who want to keep operating their wells,” Sitton said.
It is also about meeting the agency’s primary mission of minimizing waste and about improving efficiency, he said.
Lowering the requirements that keep wells active means fewer wells that operators would be required to plug and “fewer wells that go on our list” of wells the commission has to pay to plug, Sitton said. Its well- plugging fund is funded by permit fees paid by oil and gas operators.
At the same time, Sitton announced a collaboration with the Center for Integrated Seismicity Research, an industry-sponsored multidisciplinary research center under the Bureau of Economic Geology that conducts research into naturally occurring and potentially induced seismicity.
“The CISR project is industry-funded, but it’s operated by the BEG and is not beholden to its sponsors; it’s beholden to the state,” Sitton said.