Marcellus Shale Coalition releases drilling and hydraulic fracturing guidelines

On October 9. 2013, the Marcellus Shale Coalition (MSC), whose members include some of the major operators in the Marcellus Shale, issued guidelines for drilling and completion of shale gas wells, covering the topics of (1) planning, (2) general health and safety considerations, (3) well control, (4) high pressure equipment, (5) drilling operations, and (6) hydraulic fracturing and flow back operations. The MSC considers “the drilling phase and hydraulic fracturing and completions process [to be] two of the most crucial” steps to bring a shale well into production. These guidelines are not binding requirements but are a continuation of recommended practices developed by the MSC since April 2012, beginning with 11 key steps to help operators improve site planning, development and restoration. The new guidelines include the following recommendations:

  • Planning: The guidelines provide a check list of items that must be considered before moving the rig and other completions equipment into place. Operators need to consider regulatory requirements, traffic, lighting, noise, water management and recycling, erosion and sediment controls and secondary containment.
  • Health and Safety: Operators must ensure that all personnel are properly trained.
  • Well Control: Two mechanical barriers in the flow path should be used during all phases of drilling and completions operations when feasible. The mechanical barrier equipment would include blow-out preventers which must be carefully tested, inspected and maintained.
  • High Pressure Equipment must be routinely tested and inspected to ensure proper operation.
  • Drilling Operations: Operators should identify the depth of groundwater aquifers and other oil and gas wells within 1000 feet of the surface location and 500 feet of the horizontal portion of the wellbore.
  • Hydraulic Fracturing and Flow Back Operations: “Operators should commit to transparency in their operations by disclosing the composition of hydraulic fracturing fluid additives to the extent permitted by suppliers, while respecting related intellectual property rights, and proprietary and confidential business information.” Operators should monitor adjacent oil and gas wells during the fracturing process. During flow back operations, operators should minimize the release of produced gases and contain produced liquids through capture or temporary flaring. Venting is discouraged.

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson ( or 713.651.3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright's Energy Practice Group.