Eagle Ford Shale –information regarding drilling locations, leases, etc.



   Information pertaining to field size, surface location and other questions that might arise concerning drilling in the Eagle Ford Shale will be discussed in this article.
   To begin, we’ll discuss the sizes of the proration units for the Eagle Ford Shale Fields.  Presently, the proration units range from 40 acres to 640 acres.  For exacting data, you would review the individual field rules for each of the Eagle Ford Shale Fields.

  We’ll explain why surface locations for horizontal wells are not required to be located on the lease that is being drilled.  Many wells are being drilled horizontally or deviated from offsite locations to reach potential producing horizons that may be beneath city parks, water bodies or housing developments, where a surface location may not be desirable or available.  It is not unusual for an operator to obtain surface rights from which to drill a well from an adjacent more desirable location.

   Let’s explain why a surface location for horizontal wells can be located on a lease closer to a lease line than the field rules require.  The Railroad Commission of Texas says the field rules for a horizontal well regulate specifically the “horizontal drainhole” which is defined in Rule 86 as “That portion of the wellbore drilled in the correlative interval, between the penetration point and the terminus.”  The surface location, therefore, can be located anywhere on the lease since this is not considered part of the horizontal drainhole that is within the correlative interval where production may occur.

  What are plastic lining requirements for drilling pits and frac water pits?  Railroad Commission rules require an operator to take precautions to prevent pollution of surface and subsurface water, but do not include specific requirements for plastic lines in drilling pits and frac water pits.  Many operators use liners in areas where the soil is permeable.  Local governments may require the use of lined pits.

Here is information about what is required for reporting production for a well after it has been completed and how to find out what has been reported.  Railroad Commission rules require an operator to file a well completion form with the Commission 30 days after completion of the well or 90 days after completion of the drilling operation, whichever is earlier. (16 TAC §3.16)  Production must be filed monthly starting the month after the well begins producing.  You can find production information on the RRC website by using the Production Data Query application.

How long does the RRC allow an operator to flare gas from a new well completion until the gas is then connected to the pipeline?  Railroad Commission regulations generally allow gas to be released for a period not to exceed ten (10) producing days after initial completion, recompletion, in another field, or workover operations in the same field.  However the Commission may grant exceptions to this rule under certain circumstances.  See 16 TAC §3.32

  What is the typical size, shape and restoration of a drilling location in the Eagle Ford?  There is no standard location shapes or sizes; each rig has its own individual “footprint”.  Texas law allows an operator the right to use as much of the surface as necessary to explore, drill and produce the minerals from a property.  Leases or ordinances may limit the amount of surface that an operator may use and dictate restoration of the site.

Let’s explain the law regarding ingress and egress using existing roads.  An operator has the right of ingress and egress to the property for the purpose of exploring, drilling and producing the minerals.  This right cannot be denied, but it does not require surface owners to allow operators to use existing roads.  Should disagreements occur, it is a civil issue that must be pursued through the court system.

   Regarding storm water runoff, the RRC regulations ensure the quality of waters (and land) that could be potentially impacted by an oil and gas operator’s activity.  The Commission’s current rules defines “pollution of surface or subsurface water” broadly.  “The alteration of the physical, thermal, chemical, or biological quality of, or the contamination of, any surface or subsurface water in the state that renders the water harmful, detrimental, or injurious to humans, animal life, vegetation, or property, or to public health, safety, or welfare, or impairs the usefulness or the public enjoyment of the water for any lawful or reasonable purpose.” 16 TAC §23.8

  The RRC does not have any regulatory authority over the impact on property value as a result of drilling activities on your property unless a violation of Commission rules related to the prevention of pollution of usable quality water occurs.  However, you should not construe that to mean you do not have legal rights with respect to the quiet enjoyment of your home.  You may wish to consult an attorney in your area to fully understand your rights and remedies available to you.

  The Railroad Commission regulations require that the operator empty and close a drilling pit within one year of cessation of drillng activities.  The rules require the operator to empty a completion/workover pit within 30 days and to close the pit within 120 days of completion/workover operations.

 LEON ZABAVA is a Pleasanton Express Staff Writer. He may be contacted at lzabava@pleasantonexpress.com

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