Washington, DC — An online mapping portal to help oil and natural gas operators comply with a revised New Mexico waste pit rule has been developed by a team of New Mexico Tech researchers.
By speeding the process and cutting the cost of regulatory compliance, the New Mexico Pit Rule Mapping Portal supports domestic oil and gas production, helping to strengthen the nation’s energy security. The portal was created by researchers at New Mexico Tech’s Petroleum Recovery Research Center with support from DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy (FE).
Pits are used by oil and natural gas producers to contain such items as drilling wastes, produced water, and production fluids and wastes. In 2008, the state of New Mexico revised its rules covering oil and natural gas waste pits to require additional hydrologic, engineering, and legal site criteria to protect soil and groundwater from contamination.
While larger oil and gas companies can usually respond to the revised rules easily, they often pose economic and operational challenges for smaller operations, and can prevent them from developing marginal resources.
The portal is a web-based geographic information system (GIS) that allows users to evaluate specific site locations. GIS layers are presented for a number of relevant factors, including subsurface water depth, surface geology, soil maps, flowing and intermittent watercourses, existing water wells, subsurface mineral usage, ground stability, and calculated surface slope data. Topographic and aerial photography base layers indicate the existence of and provision of the distance to any nearby structures.
The portal’s software generates up to 21 different siting criteria maps. An online form can be filled out—in part or in whole using the software—and included with the generated maps as part of an operator’s online permit application.
New Mexico Form C-144 requires demonstration of compliance to specific siting criteria for oil and gas waste pits. Before development of the New Mexico Pit Rule Mapping Portal, operators invested significant hours gathering data from diverse sources to determine whether a proposed site met the required criteria. The mapping portal solves this problem by compiling a majority of the criteria data into a one-stop, internet-accessible location. Access is obtained using any standard web browser with the resultant data viewable on a variety of base maps.
The three-year project to develop the portal earned wide support from both industry and regulators. The New Mexico Oil Conservation Division aided in data collection, form development, and software testing. On average, the portal sees 40–50 users a day, with approximately 40 percent of the users being from regulatory agencies.
The project was administered through the Research Partnership to Secure Energy for America, an FE-managed program, which addresses the technology challenges of small oil and gas producers as part of the Ultra-Deepwater and Unconventional Natural Gas and Other Petroleum Resources Program (Energy Policy Act of 2005).