Chapter 5 - Part III
Oil/Gas and Solid Minerals Management Guidelines
Standard Engineering Practices
Recognized engineering practices for the routine operation of oil and gas exploration and development are known as Conditions of Approval or COAs. These standard procedures are described in the Federal Onshore Orders and further clarified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR 43, October, 1995).
Standard regulations may be supplemented with additional COAs. The additional COAs address sensitive issues within the Caliente Resource Area. Critical issues underlying the federal regulations and supplemental COAs are the protection of usable aquifers, mineral zones including hydrocarbons, surface environmental issues, site safety and well control, and site reclamation.
Bureau inspection and monitoring of oil field activity on public lands is discussed within the phases of oil and gas development:
a. Drilling a New Well
b. Temporary Abandonment of a Producing Well (Idle Well)
c. Plugging and Abandonment of a Well
d. Surface Reclamation
No special COAs are normally added for routine producing operations.
Drilling a New Well
After an Application for Permit to Drill (APD) has been received by the Bakersfield Office of the Bureau of Land Management, a review of engineering design as well as potential effects to sensitive resources is undertaken. Special conditions would be noted on the application at this review stage of an oil and gas project by either the operator or the Bureau of Land Management. Modified proposals would be developed cooperatively with the applicant to ensure that the modified project still meets the applicant's objective. Any special conditions would be attached to the APD by the Bureau and the applicant would be informed within seven days of receipt of the APD. In addition to Bureau-wide regulations, the Caliente Resource Area has developed procedures - these may include but are not limited to:
Steam Injectors. All steam injection wells within a 300' radius of a new location must be shut-in a minimum of 3 days prior to the spudding of a new well.
Conductor Pipe. A minimum of 50' of conductor pipe is to be set and cemented to surface. The conductor pipe must be equivalent to or exceed the properties of A-25 grade line pipe.
Diverter. Prior to spud, a diverter system will be installed on the conductor pipe and function tested. The test will be recorded in the drilling log. The diverter system, at a minimum, will consist of an annular type preventer (minimum working pressure 1000 psi), 2" (minimum ID) kill line, and 6" (minimum ID) diverter line with no internal restrictions or turns. A full opening hydraulically-controlled valve will be installed in the diverter line which will automatically open when the annular preventer is closed. The accumulator system will have sufficient capacity to close the annular preventer and open the hydraulically-controlled valve.
Remote controls for the diverter system will be located on the rig floor and readily accessible to the driller. Remote controls will be capable of closing the annular preventer and opening the hydraulically-controlled valve. Master controls will be located at the accumulator and will be capable of closing and opening the annular preventer and opening the hydraulically-controlled valve. The diverter system will be function-tested daily and the test recorded in the drilling log.
General Casing and Cementing. A Subsequent Report (Form 3160-5) detailing the size, weight, and grade of the casing; the amount and type of cement, including additives; and a copy of the service company's materials ticket and job log will be submitted to the BLM within five (5) business days following the cementing of the casing string. Each casing string (except conductor pipe) will be pressure tested, prior to drilling out the casing shoe, to 0.22 psi/ft of casing string length or 1000 psi, whichever is
greater, but not to exceed 70% of the internal yield pressure of the casing. The casing pressure test will be recorded in the drilling log. The wait-on-cement (WOC) time for each casing string will be adequate to achieve a minimum of 500 psi compressive strength at the casing shoe prior to drilling out.
Drilling Fluids. Sufficient quantities of drilling fluid (mud and water) will be maintained at the well site, at all times, for the purpose of controlling steam kicks.
Temporary Abandonment of a Producing Well (Idle Well)
Economic conditions have depressed the California market for the typical heavy oil produced in the Caliente Resource Area. When the producing market is depressed, an operator may decide to shut-in his uneconomic, producing wells and wait for conditions to improve. The highly viscous nature of most Kern County crude oil, typical low well head pressures, and the relatively low corrosive properties of the fluids (low sulphur crude) make the known dangers of shutting in a well for long periods and then bringing it back on-line less of a mechanical problem here in the Resource Area than in other producing regions of the country. As a result, by 1990, a large number of wells were remaining idle for longer and longer periods. Monitoring and correction of the problem has been successfully undertaken by the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources and the local BLM Resource Area. The following additional conditions may be required prior to the temporary abandonment of a producing oil/gas well , service well, or an injection well.
Zone Isolation. The requirement to isolate the producing interval (General Requirement #4) is waived. This waiver is based on the information submitted with the application and the geologic data in Volume # - California Oil and Gas Fields, (field name) which indicates the absence of usable water aquifers above the producing horizon in (section in which well is located).
Mechanical Integrity of Casing. The mechanical integrity of the casing may be determined using the ADA pressure test method.
Fluid Surveys. A fluid level survey will be performed at six (6) month intervals during the period the well is temporarily abandoned. A copy of the survey will be submitted to the BLM within five (5) business days of the survey.
Monitoring of Wellhead Pressures and Temperatures. Wellhead pressure and temperature will be continuously monitored throughout the period the well is temporarily abandoned. Any pressure/temperature change will be promptly reported to the BLM.
Isolation of the Producing Interval. The producing interval will be isolated by setting a plug in the casing within 100' above the producing interval if a rising fluid level, an increasing wellhead pressure, or an increasing wellhead temperature is detected. The plug can be either a retrievable or drillable-type bridge plug or a cement plug of at least 100' in length.
Plugging and Abandonment of a Well
No additional conditions are typically attached to the abandonment of a well in California. Onshore Orders describe the plugging procedure. While final abandonment will normally be witnessed by the BLM, no final site marker is currently required by the Caliente Resource Area.
Conditions for the recovery of an oil well site are unique to each area's ecosystem and habitat. The following examples of Conditions of Approval have been developed for use within the Caliente Resource Area. The applicability of any or all of these COAs will be determined based on site specific conditions.
General. The operator (or holder) will prepare a seedbed by : a) scarifying the disturbed area, (b) distributing topsoil uniformly, or c) disking the topsoil, as directed by the BLM Authorized Officer (use one as appropriate).
The operator will recontour the disturbed area and obliterate all earthwork by removing embankments, backfilling excavations, and grading to re-establish the approximate original contours of the land in the area of operation.
The operator will uniformly spread topsoil over all unoccupied disturbed area (outside the ditch line, fence line, work area). Spreading will not be done when the ground or topsoil is frozen or wet.
The operator will seed all disturbed area, using an agreed upon method suitable for the location. Seeding will be repeated if a satisfactory stand is not obtained as determined by the BLM Authorized Officer upon evaluation after the first growing season.
The operator will arrange to have a biologist available to assist the construction workers in the identification and avoidance of endangered species.
Producing Wells. Site reclamation for producing wells will be accomplished for portions of the site not required for continued operation of the well. The following measures are typical reclamation requirements:
Reclamation of drilling fluid pit (mud pit).
Cut and fill slope vegetation.
Polluting substances, contaminated materials moved offsite or buried.
Berm removal and site grading.
Non-producing Wells. Rehabilitation on the entire site will be required and will commence as soon as practical, dependent upon prevailing weather conditions. Cut and fill slopes will be reduced and graded to blend to the adjacent terrain.
Drilling fluids held within pits may be allowed to dry. Fluids that will not dry, must be removed. All polluting substances or contaminated materials such as oil, oil-saturated soils, and gravels will be buried with a minimum of 2 feet of clean soil as cover, or be removed to an approved site.
Drainages will be re-established and temporary measures will be required to prevent erosion to the site until vegetation is established.
After final grading and before replacement of topsoil, the entire surface of the site will be scarified to eliminate slippage surfaces and to promote root penetration. Topsoil will then be spread over the site to achieve an approximate uniform, stable thickness consistent with the established contours.
Permanent Well Abandonment. The surface management agency is responsible for establishing and approving methods for surface rehabilitation and determining when this rehabilitation has been satisfactorily accomplished. At this point, a Subsequent (Final) Report of Abandonment will be approved.
The potential for new discoveries of locatable minerals such as gold, silver, tungsten, and gypsum has been evaluated for the Caliente Resource Area, using a high, medium, or low classification.
High mineral resource potential exists where geologic, geochemical, or geophysical characteristics favorable for resource accumulation are known to be present, where data are adequate to indicate a reasonable probability that mineralized rock exists, and there is a likelihood the resource will be developed within the life of the plan. In areas with moderate potential mineral, deposits are extrapolated or known to occur, but probably will not be developed within the life of the plan. In areas with low or no potential, rock formations do not exist that contain potentially economic mineral resources. This may be due to a lack of identified mineral deposits or a lack of demand for the mineral resources known to occur.
In general, solid mineral development potential is considered to be low throughout most of the Resource Area, and inclusion of a solid mineral potential map was not critical to the final recommendations of the Caliente Resource Management Plan.
Lands Withdrawn from Solid Mineral Development
Existing Withdrawals. Lands withdrawn from mining by federal legislation are within the California Rocks and Islands Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Wilderness Areas closed to mining entry include the Machesna and Santa Lucia Wilderness Areas in the Coast Management Area. The Sierra Management Area includes five Wilderness Areas: Chimney Peak, Domeland, Sacatar Trail, Owens Peak, and Kiavah, and all are closed to entry under the general mining law.
Proposed Withdrawals. Proposed withdrawals described in this Plan include approximately 16,000 acres of lands within Areas of Critical Environmental Concern and Special Management Areas.
Coast Management Area. Pt. Sal, Tierra Redonda and ten acres of riparian lands in the Salinas River Areas of Critical Environmental Concern contain 487 acres of public lands proposed for withdrawal from mining. Public lands within the Frog Pond and Hopper Mountain Special Management Areas.
Valley Management Area. Public lands within the Alkali Sink, the Soda Lake area of the Carrizo Plain Natural Area, Chico Martinez, and Goose Lake Areas of Critical Environmental Concern are proposed for closure to solid mineral development.
Sierra Management Area. The Blue Ridge ACEC and 250 acres of Sequoia trees within the Case Mountain ACEC, which contain 5,545 acres of public lands are proposed for closure to mining of solid minerals. Within Erskine Creek SMA 480 acres are proposed for withdrawal and 220 acres in Keyesville Special Management Areas are presently withdraw, with an additional 280 acres proposed for withdrawal for recreational mining.
Lands Open to the Mining of Locatable Minerals
Mining in the United States is governed by the General Mining Law of 1872. Since that time, a body of U.S. case law has developed to further regulate the mining industry. Federal regulations regarding solid mining are found in Title 43 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 3809.
Existing mining claims cover approximately 7,700 acres of public lands within the Caliente Resource Area
With the exception of existing and proposed closures discussed above, the remainder of public lands within the Caliente Resource Area are open to the mining of solid minerals. The process of recordation of a new mining claim with the Bureau is described in 43 CFR 3833.
If more than 5 acres of surface disturbance is proposed, or the proposed operation is within an ACEC, the Federal regulations require submission of a plan of operations and a reclamation plan, and preparation of an environmental assessment or Environmental Impact Statement.
If less than 5 acres of surface disturbance is proposed, operations must submit a notice to BLM prior to initiating surface disturbing activity
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