Regulatory Changes Impacting Drilling and Producing Operations
- Manuel A. Sirgo Jr. (Texaco Inc.)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- September 1986
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 981 - 985
- 1986. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 3 Production and Well Operations, 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 1.11 Drilling Fluids and Materials, 1.6 Drilling Operations, 4.9 Facilities Operations, 1.14 Casing and Cementing
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Summary. Since the expiration of several general permits in the offshore areas of the U.S. gulf coast and southern California, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working to develop guidelines for discharge criteria from offshore drilling vessels and platforms. platforms. The industry has diligently sought to provide a research-based effort to establish criteria that operators can live with on a day-today basis. Additionally, the industry has participated in many hours of meetings with both EPA headquarters and EPA regional staffs. These negotiations and the exchange of hard data are held in high esteem by all parties because they represent concerted efforts to assist in the determination of discharge limitations that satisfy technology-based requirements and are operationally achievable.
This section provides some background on the areas of EPA regulations undergoing changes. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) of 1974 requires a permit for any contaminated discharge to U.S. waters. These permits are granted by the EPA under the Natl. Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). Such permits are called NPDES permits on an individual basis and general NPDES permits in regulating discharges from similar facilities operating on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in the Gulf of Mexico. General permits were first granted for the Gulf of Mexico in 1981 and reissued in 1983, and a new 5-year permit was proposed in Jan. 1985. An offshore southern permit was proposed in Jan. 1985. An offshore southern California general permit was first granted in 1983 and reissued in 1984, and a new 5-year permit was proposed in Jan. 1985. The first general permit for OCS operations offshore Alaska and select areas of Alaskan state waters was granted in June 1984. This permit was litigated by several operators and a Fifth Circuit Court decision was recently handed down. In another area of EPA activities, the Underground Injection Control (UIC) regulations for nonprimacy statesi.e., those states not wishing to conduct their own UIC programs-were promulgated in June 1984, and programs-were promulgated in June 1984, and subsequently litigated by API. Settlement negotiations commenced in Oct. 1984. The litigation issues centered around such things as maximum injection pressures, casing and cementing requirements, P and A plans, and financial responsibility for Class II injection wells. Finally, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)-containing dielectric fluids have been used for a very long time (more than 50 years) as a fire retardant in electrical transformers and capacitors. PCB's were prohibited by 1979 EPA rules and subsequently modified after litigation by the electrical utilities industry. A large number of pumping units, however, use both transformers and capacitors that contain PCB'S. Transformers containing dielectric fluids with less than 500 ppm PCB's are exempt from the rule but are subject to specific disposal requirements. However, capacitors containing more than 3 lbm [1.4 kg] of PCB-dielectric fluid are subject to the rule that requires their removal from service before Oct. 1, 1988. API has requested that EPA exclude oilfield capacitors from the rule on the basis of a number of arguments that would allow some 35,000 capacitors to continue in service for their useful life. EPA recently issued a statement that PCB capacitors used in outdoor, fenced-in areas that restrict public access may be used beyond the Oct. 1, 1988, phase-out date for PCB capacitors. Continued rulemaking connected with the regulation of PCB's is expected.
The New General Permit for the Gulf of Mexico
EPA Regions IV and VI jointly proposed a 5-year permit for oil and gas operations on the OCS in the Gulf of Mexico in July 1985. The permit covers both exploratory and producing facilities, as did prior general permits issued producing facilities, as did prior general permits issued by only Region VI. This is the first general permit activity for the gulf undertaken by Region IV. Both the drilling contractor and the operator must be alert to several significant permit conditions. As with all other OCS permits, the discharge of oil-based muds is prohibited. Similarly, the proposed permit would prohibited. Similarly, the proposed permit would authorize the discharge of any of the eight generic muds. Their discharge is subject to limitations on additives. To monitor the use of mud additives, the permit would require the additive not to drop or to decrease the 96-hour median lethal concentration (LC-50) test below 7,400 ppm on the basis of the suspended particulate phase or 740 ppm for the whole mud. This parameter is based on a test of Generic Mud 8, which is formulated with 5 % mineral oil. There is a mud-discharge-rate limitation of 1,000 bbl/hr [159 m3/h], with reduced rates near areas of biological concern. The discharge of mud containing diesel for lubricity purposes is prohibited. Mud containing mineral oil, however, can be discharged if the toxicity limits are not exceeded. The imposition of toxicity limitations is a significant change in permit conditions in the Gulf of Mexico.
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