Revised oil and gas well management regulations have been released for public comment by the West Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP).
The draft Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources (Resource Management and Administration) Regulations 2014 address a range of matters, including well design, baseline water monitoring, field development and data administration.
DMP Executive Director for Petroleum, Jeff Haworth said the draft well management regulations adopt a risk-based approach and were developed in response to recommendations received from an independent review the department commissioned in 2011.
“The review recommended greater regulatory transparency and enforceability, particularly in response to heightened public interest in Western Australia’s emerging shale and tight gas industry and hydraulic fracturing,” he said.
“These regulations are a key part of the State Government’s integrated regulatory framework for oil and gas activities that provides protection for communities, the environment and water resources. Various Government agencies are involved, including the Departments of Environment Regulation, Water, Health and the Environmental Protection Authority.”
With more than one million shale gas wells hydraulically fractured around the world, DMP has drawn on experiences in other jurisdictions to ensure these new regulations reflect the latest scientific and technological advancements in the oil and gas sector.
“A key lesson we have learnt from other jurisdictions is the need for greater transparency and accountability in regards to the protection of groundwater resources near onshore oil and gas activities,” Haworth said.
“The new regulations will introduce requirements for petroleum companies to have baseline water monitoring for their groundwater management strategies for field development.
“DMP will soon be releasing guidelines which will assist petroleum companies to identify the extent of baseline groundwater monitoring and what they need to consider to ensure monitoring is carried out effectively.”
The draft regulations will also adopt a new ‘whole-of-life’ approach to well construction and management to further strengthen obligations on companies to ensure wells are fit for purpose.
“These strengthened requirements, together with new water monitoring requirements and the State’s existing petroleum environment and safety regulations will ensure the State’s water resources are protected from oil and gas activities,” Haworth said.
“Importantly, petroleum companies which breach the regulations will face harsher penalties.”
The new regulations are part of a broader initiative to reform the State’s petroleum legislative framework, with new environment and safety regulations released in 2012 and 2010 respectively.
The new regulations will transition WA’s petroleum industry regulation from a prescriptive regime to a risk-based approach which will align onshore activities with offshore Commonwealth regulated activities.
“This will provide a consistent, best practice approach for petroleum companies operating in Western Australia,” Haworth said.
Press Release, February 5, 2014