Alaskan Oil & Gas Agency Proposes Regulations of Hydraulic Fracturing

On September 23, 2013, the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC) held a public hearing on proposed regulations for the hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas wells in the state.

While hydraulic fracturing has been used for decades in Alaska, Alaskan oil and gas production is entirely from conventional porous rock sources, so hydraulic fracturing is not used to the same degree as elsewhere in the United States.

The proposed regulations will incorporate Alaska’s current wellbore integrity rules, but seek to increase oversight and make more information available to the public.

Specifically, the regulations would require the approval of state regulators before hydraulic fracturing is conducted, notification of landowners prior to hydraulic fracturing, and the full disclosure of chemicals found in the hydraulic fracturing liquids to be used. 

The regulation also requires operators to test all water wells within a half-mile radius of the oil or gas well, both before and after hydraulic fracturing occurs. The sampling and testing parameters include pH, dissolved methane, and other compounds.

The proposed regulations seek to define hydraulic fracturing as “the treatment of a well by the application of hydraulic fracturing fluid under pressure for the express purpose of initiating or propagating fractures in a target geologic formation to enhance production of oil and/or natural gas.” 

The term is currently undefined under Alaskan state law.

Within 30 days from the public hearing, the AOGCC will decide whether to adopt the proposed provisions addressing hydraulic fracturing, to revise the regulations and submit for further public comment, or to take no action on them.

This article was prepared by Lauren Brogdon ( or 713 651 5375) from Norton Rose Fulbright's Energy Practice Group.