Small Town News
BLM automates for oil and gas
Nearly 40 people attended the Bureau of Land Management's Newcastle Field Office public meeting on Jan. 12 in the Michael's room at Weston County Senior Services Center to discuss three main topics, which included automated submission of oil and gas information, wildlife criteria in relation to oil and gas activity and inspection and enforcement of oil and gas field operations.
"We've got a lot on our agenda today. I'd like to welcome all of you to this oil and gas meeting. We want this to be an open forum exchange, so feel free to ask questions at any time," began Jack Hanson, BLM petroleum engineer, who introduced six members of the BLM staff to the audience, beginning with BLM field manager Rick Miller.
"We'd like to encourage our oil and gas operators to automate," mentioned Hanson who noted there were no handouts for the presentation in an effort to illustrate the agency's desire for the use of automation. According to Hanson, a redesign of their website is also in the works that will take users to a single page with consolidated information.
"All of our Powerpoints will be available online for you to go and view," he said, noting the BLM is also on Facebook.
BLM's land law examiner, Scott Benson, explained navigation to WIS, Well Information Systems, where oil and gas reports can be automated. After going to the BLM web page, he said to click on 'What we do,' then click Energy, Oil and Gas, and Well Information Systems. Oil and gas operators will then have to fill out a request for user account section, and after completion a password will be sent to them.
BLM petroleum engineer technician Andy Ambrose explained that automation is for all wells that are federal.
"If you send us a paper copy, weshave to go in and re-type everything. This eliminates typo errors," he explained of the new system, before adding his prediction that new regulations in the works may dictate all operators have to go electronic.
"It's good to get familiar with using the system now, before it becomes mandatory. It makes our side instantaneous. If Jack approves it, we have it," Ambrose said, noting that the need for a verbal approval from Hanson in the past has caused him to make a late-night phone call or two.
"I love to get Jack up at two in the morning," Ambrose said, indicating that automation also saves applicants the cost of a 45-cent postage stamp.
Hanson explained that an operator outside Weston County has been sending reports electronically for quite some time.
"An operator in Crook County has been sending everything in electronically for three or four years, and it's worked very well. You can scan it, attach it and send it. Most stuff is electronic these days. There is an electronic confirmation. It is going to be 24/7," he noted.
When questioned, Hanson replied that verbal approval would serve as a backup if the internet or web page happened to be down for a particular reason, causing a hold-up of electronic reports.
BLM Wildlife Biologist Nate West led a discussion on wildlife criteria, first mentioning threatened and endangered species. He listed raptors, grouse, bats and plants as sensitive species tracked by BLM, and indicated that the Internet is playing a role in those management efforts as well.
"Everyone pretty much knows what's going on with sage grouse in the core areas. The biggest delay we get is we don't have the surveys in place," he said, noting specific protocols have to be followed that can be found on blm.gov.
"Some surveys have specific times, so plan ahead," he advised, and noted management of oil and gas pits can also be found online.
BLM petroleum engineering technician Jim Hutchinson'discussed enforcement of eight areas in particular: valves on tanks, gauge reference height, well or facility signs, oil-stained soils, abandoned equipment, trash, tank effectiveness to maintain pressure and vegetation within two to three feet of well head. He noted some wells are 100 years old, and may have minor seepage, but those wells that have more than that would require repairs.
"If it's puddling we definitely want some action," he stated.
Hutchinson noted keeping weeds cut allows safe access for inspection of valves.
Overall appearance of well locations was discussed, and photos were shown of wells meeting or exceeding criteria, while others were shown to demonstrate deficiencies.
One area that Hutchinson has seen issues with is recycle pumps. He said if it is a direct violation, a notice of noncompliance is written and if oil and gas operators make corrections within the specified time frame there is no monetary fine. He stated seals must be corrected within 24 hours.
"Fines at this time are $250. We can shut down operation, which is very, very rare. Most of our operators are good at making corrections," he said, before encouraging communication between operators and agency representatives.
"Stay in communication ahead of time. Stay ahead of it before Game and Fish calls," Hutchinson urged.
A photo of trash dumped at a location in Nebraska prompted Hutchinson to make those in attendance aware of the fact that the Newcastle field office also has duties in Nebraska, and the BLM website states the NFO administers 6,600 surface acres in that state.
Ambrose wanted oil and gas operators to know that the new oil and gas regulations are nearing completion and they should be watching for the public comment period on them.
"New regulations are coming out for public comment sometime this month. I think it will be this month. There are some big changes," he said.
Hanson concluded the meeting by reminding operators that BLM staff are available to come to company safety meetings.
"We're available to provide presentations at monthly safety meetings. We'll come to your office," he said. The BLM can be reached at 746-6600.
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