The report of the States First Gas Storage Workgroup was released today, May 10, 2017, during the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission meeting in Oklahoma City. The report represents the culmination of more than a year’s efforts to update and document the technical basis for defining State and Federal regulations for underground natural gas storage facilities in the United States.

Just back from a wonderful technical class and sessions at the Spring 2017 Solution Mining Research Institute (SMRI) conference in Albuquerque. Lots of interest in how best to promote well integrity for underground storage of natural gas, NGLs, and petroleum (at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve).

Major regulatory changes are underway for the US underground natural gas storage industry, following the Aliso Canyon blowout in winter 2015-2016. Operators are coming to grips with how to demonstrate compliance with the new regulations in California and at the Federal level via PHMSA. Our recent article in Oil and Gas Journal (we made the cover highlights!) gives an overview of the major issues.

In January I was a Panelist discussing “Growing Regulatory Oversight Concerning Gas Storage Well Operations” at the 15th Annual Platts Gas Storage Outlook Conference, Houston, Texas, January 12–13, 2017. I also presented a talk on “Capturing Risk and Integrating Workflows in the post-Aliso Canyon Era,” with Charles Chabannes of Geostock Sandia LLC, Houston, at the conference.

It was an outstanding meeting that put on the table many of the issues, and several classes of solutions, facing the storage industry today.


An excellent meeting of IOGCC in Little Rock. Arkansas ras_ark_gov_10-16_good_smalllast week, including an inspiring address delivered by the incoming 2017 IOGCC Chairman and Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (pictured, right; also shown are the Consul General of Canada (center), and me at the Governor’s mansion in Little Rock).

In June I was appointed by Chairman David Porter, of the Texas Railroad Commission and Official Representative for the State of Texas, to the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC). IOGCC_logoStanding committee appointments include the Energy Resources, Research and Technology Committee and the Environment and Safety Committee. Thanks to all who kindly were involved in this prestigious appointment.

Thanks go out to Haakon Fossen and his nomination team, GSA_logoand to GSA, for this wonderful recognition as a newly elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America. Congratulations to the other newly elected Fellows and award recipients for 2016.


In May I was honored as the recipient of the 2016 Completions Optimization and Technology Region Award from SPE’s Gulf Coast North America Region. My congratulations go to all the other winners in the Gulf Coast Section and to my colleagues and nominators in Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at UT.

I was appointed in April as a Member of the Natural Gas and Liquids Storage Work GroupIOGCC_logosponsored by the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) and StatesFirst. The group is tasked with reformulating guidelines for regulations for safe storage of natural gas in underground chambers as part of the US national energy infrastructure. Our first meeting occurred in early May in Denver.

Exciting work was exhibited at the SPE/SEG Workshop on Induced Seismicity held in Fort Worth, Texas, in March 2016. The SPE_IS_Workshop_headerworkshop was a mix of thematic, technical, case study, and legal/regulatory framework presentations. About 70 attendees were from industry (operators, service companies, water disposal companies, and consultants), 20 from government and regulatory bodies, 15 from academia, and 5 other (legal, financial).

Some of the risk factors that were emphasized included:

  • Faults
  • Stress state (leading to critically stressed faults)
  • Injection (of saline wastewater) into (or accessible to) crystalline basement
  • High injection rates
  • Injection volumes that could lead to areal distribution of induced seismicity
  • Distance between injector and fault, leading to time delay between shut-in and cessation of induced slip on faults

Here are some key take-aways from the Workshop (there are many more that center on more technical issues):

  1. Injection volumes in states from Oklahoma to Ohio have been reduced since at least mid-2015, due to the industry downturn (hence less saltwater injection and hydraulic fracturing), and stiffer regulations requiring this, in some combination. The result consistently is reduced numbers of seismic events in these areas, strongly suggesting that this mitigation strategy (reduced cumulative injection volumes) can be effective in reducing induced seismicity associated with wastewater injection. This can be tied into injection rate (Weingarten et al., 2015 Science) by incorporating and considering time scale of injection volumes (monthly, yearly).
  2. A key issue is the definition of Success in an IS mitigation program. The consensus factors include: (a) no felt events (so by implication smaller events at depth may inform completions and the science but do not define a nuisance to the public; and (b) establishing and maintaining good and positive working relations among all stakeholders, including regulators, operators, politicians, and the public. Some states score better here than others but a set like this can define the gold standard for what can and maybe should be aimed for in any mitigation program.
  3. Another consensus outcome is obvious but requires restating: large IS events (defined as felt earthquakes and characterized on a Modified Mercalli felt-intensity scale) require a sufficiently large fault, in a suitable stress state, that can be acted upon by pore pressure changes due to injection. Fundamentally, this means that identifying faults (and of course their attitude in 3D space) should be of first-order importance and priority. Second is adequate definition of stress state. Both are of course necessary but not sufficient for IS since we then need pore pressure change suitable to move the faults in their stress state to failure. Only a combination of all three can give us initial bounds on the IS problem.

 Natural Fractures: What to Look For  |  May 2016Iinterpretation 17

Interpretation of fracture and geomechanics data is increasingly central to understanding the subsurface. Fractures can have a profound impact on many types of subsurface engineering procedure.

To help advance our understanding of fractures and how fracture interpretation, including uncertainties, influences  practical applications, Steve Laubach, Rich Schultz, Jon Olson and Randy Marrett are organizing a special issue of the SEG and AAPG journal Interpretation on the topic of natural fracture interpretation: what to look for.

Papers are sought covering all aspects of fracture and fault interpretation.

Specifically, the volume will address the following questions. What are the interpretation challenges? How have geomechanics interpretations been applied throughout asset life cycles? What information can geophysics provide? And can we identify the causes of fault slip and the extent of aseismic fluid flow?

Papers were due 1 May 2016. The issue was published as individual papers in early 2017. For more information see the Interpretation site.


In 2015RAS_COP_SCA_team-photo2015 I received the SPIRIT Award for Innovation from ConocoPhillips, with Indonesia Water Management Team, for significant contributions to subsurface hydrocarbon containment integrity. Here we see some of my teammates from Houston who, along with our colleagues in Jakarta, shared in this prestigious award.

This is the highest award in ConocoPhillips for teams that added value through sustained, large-scale integrated effort.


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