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TITLE 16ECONOMIC REGULATION
PART 1RAILROAD COMMISSION OF TEXAS
CHAPTER 3OIL AND GAS DIVISION
RULE §3.14Plugging

to whether or not the well to be plugged was used as an injection or disposal well; the well's history; the well's current bottom hole pressure; the presence of highly pressurized formations intersected by the wellbore; the method by which the alternative material will be placed in the wellbore; and the compressive strength and other performance specifications of the alternative material to be used. The director or the director's delegate shall approve such a request only if the proposed alternate material and plugging method will ensure that the well does not pose a potential threat of harm to natural resources.

  (5) Operators shall use only cementers approved by the director or the director's delegate, except when plugging is conducted in accordance with subparagraph (B)(ii) of this paragraph or paragraph (6) of this subsection. Cementing companies, service companies, or operators may apply for designation as approved cementers. Approval will be granted on a showing by the applicant of the ability to mix and pump cement or other alternate materials as approved by the director or the director's delegate in compliance with this rule. An approved cementer is authorized to conduct plugging operations in accordance with Commission rules in each Commission district.

    (A) A cementing company, service company, or operator seeking designation as an approved cementer shall file a request in writing with the district director of the district in which it proposes to conduct its initial plugging operations. The request shall contain the following information:

      (i) the name of the organization as shown on its most recent approved organizational report;

      (ii) a list of qualifications including personnel who will supervise mixing and pumping operations;

      (iii) length of time the organization has been in the business of cementing oil and gas wells;

      (iv) an inventory of the type of equipment to be used to mix and pump cement or other alternate materials as approved by the director or the director's delegate; and

      (v) a statement certifying that the organization will comply with all Commission rules.

    (B) No request for designation as an approved cementer will be approved until after the district director or the director's delegate has:

      (i) inspected all equipment to be used for mixing and pumping cement or other alternate materials as approved by the director or the director's delegate; and

      (ii) witnessed at least one plugging operation to determine if the cementing company, service company, or operator can properly mix and pump cement or other alternate materials as approved by the director or the director's delegate according to the specifications required by this rule.

    (C) The district director or the director's delegate shall file a letter with the director or the director's delegate recommending that the application to be designated as an approved cementer be approved or denied. If the district director or the director's delegate does not recommend approval, or the director or the director's delegate denies the application, the applicant may request a hearing on its application.

    (D) Designation as an approved cementer may be suspended or revoked for violations of Commission rules. The designation may be revoked or suspended administratively by the director or the director's delegate for violations of Commission rules if:

      (i) the cementer has been given written notice by personal service or by registered or certified mail informing the cementer of the proposed action, the facts or conduct alleged to warrant the proposed action, and of its right to request a hearing within 10 days to demonstrate compliance with Commission rules and all requirements for retention of designation as an approved cementer; and

      (ii) the cementer did not file a written request for a hearing within 10 days of receipt of the notice.

  (6) An operator may request administrative authority to plug its own wells without being an approved cementer. An operator seeking such authority shall file a written request with the district director and demonstrate its ability to mix and pump cement or other alternate materials as approved by the director or the director's delegate in compliance with this subsection. The district director or the director's delegate shall determine whether such a request warrants approval. If the district director or the director's delegate refuses to administratively approve this request, the operator may request a hearing on its request.

  (7) The district director or the director's delegate may require additional cement plugs to cover and contain any productive horizon or to separate any water stratum from any other water stratum if the water qualities or hydrostatic pressures differ sufficiently to justify separation. The tagging and/or pressure testing of any such plugs, or any other plugs, and respotting may be required if necessary to ensure that the well does not pose a potential threat of harm to natural resources.

  (8) For onshore or inland wells, a 10-foot cement plug shall be placed in the top of the well, and casing shall be cut off three feet below the ground surface.

  (9) Mud-laden fluid of at least 9-1/2 pounds per gallon with a minimum funnel viscosity of 40 seconds shall be placed in all portions of the well not filled with cement or other alternate material as approved by the director or the director's delegate. The hole shall be in static condition at the time the cement plugs are placed. The district director or the director's delegate may grant exceptions to the requirements of this paragraph if a deviation from the prescribed minimums for fluid weight or viscosity will insure that the well does not pose a potential threat of harm to natural resources. An operator shall request approval to use alternate fluid other than mud-laden fluid by filing with the district director a written request providing all pertinent information to support the use of the proposed alternate fluid. The district director or the director's delegate shall determine whether such a request warrants approval, and shall approve such a request only if the proposed alternate fluid will insure that the well does not pose a potential threat of harm to natural resources.

  (10) Non-drillable material that would hamper or prevent reentry of a well shall not be placed in any wellbore during plugging operations, except in the case of a well plugged and abandoned under the provisions of §3.35 or §4.614(b) of this title (relating to Procedures for Identification and Control of Wellbores in Which Certain Logging Tools Have Been Abandoned (Statewide Rule 35); and Authorized Disposal Methods, respectively). Pipe and unretrievable junk shall not be cemented in the hole during plugging operations without prior approval by the district director or the director's delegate.

  (11) All cement plugs, except the top plug, shall have sufficient slurry volume to fill 100 feet of hole, plus 10% for each 1,000 feet of depth from the ground surface to the bottom of the plug.

  (12) The operator shall fill the rathole, mouse hole, and cellar, and shall empty all tanks, vessels, related piping and flowlines that will not be actively used in the continuing operation of the lease within 120 days after plugging work is completed. Within the same 120 day period, the operator shall remove all such tanks, vessels, and related piping, remove all loose junk and trash from the location, and contour the location to discourage pooling of surface water at or around the facility site. The operator shall close all pits in accordance with the provisions of §3.8 of this title (relating to Water Protection (Statewide Rule 8)). The district director or the director's delegate may grant a reasonable extension of time of not more than an additional 120 days for the removal of tanks, vessels and related piping.

(e) Plugging requirements for wells with surface casing.

  (1) When insufficient surface casing is set to protect all usable quality water strata and such usable quality water strata are exposed to the wellbore when production or intermediate casing is pulled from the well or as a result of such casing not being run, a cement plug shall be a minimum of 100 feet in length and shall extend at least 50 feet above and 50 feet below the base of the deepest usable quality water stratum. This plug shall be evidenced by tagging with tubing or drill pipe. The plug shall be respotted if it has not been properly placed. In addition, a cement plug shall be set across the shoe of the surface casing. This plug shall be a minimum of 100 feet in length and shall extend at least 50 feet above and below the shoe.

  (2) When sufficient surface casing has been set to protect all usable quality water strata, a cement plug shall be placed across the shoe of the surface casing. This plug shall be a minimum of 100 feet in length and shall extend at least 50 feet above the shoe and at least 50 feet below the shoe.

  (3) If surface casing has been set deeper than 200 feet below the base of the deepest usable quality water stratum, an additional cement plug shall be placed inside the surface casing across the base of the deepest usable quality water stratum. This plug shall be a minimum of 100 feet in length and shall extend at least 50 feet below and 50 feet above the base of the deepest usable quality water stratum.

  (4) Plugs shall be set as necessary to separate multiple usable quality water strata by placing the required plug at each depth as determined by the Groundwater Advisory Unit of the Oil and Gas Division.

  (5) An operator may not remove, cause to be removed, or allow to be removed surface casing from a well at abandonment. This prohibition applies to wells drilled by cable tool and rotary rigs alike.

(f) Plugging requirements for wells with intermediate casing.

  (1) For wells in which the intermediate casing has been cemented through all usable quality water strata and all productive horizons, a cement plug meeting the requirements of subsection (d)(11) of this section shall be placed inside the casing and centered opposite the base of the deepest usable quality water stratum, but extend no less than 50 feet above and below the base of the deepest usable quality water stratum.

  (2) For wells in which intermediate casing is not cemented through all usable quality water strata and all productive horizons, and if the casing will not be pulled, the intermediate casing shall be perforated at the required depths to place cement outside of the casing by squeeze cementing through casing perforations.

  (3) Additionally, plugs shall be set as necessary to separate multiple usable quality water strata by placing the required plug at each depth as determined by the Groundwater Advisory Unit of the Oil and Gas Division.

(g) Plugging requirements for wells with production casing.

  (1) For wells in which the production casing has been cemented through all usable quality water strata and all productive horizons, a cement plug meeting the requirements of subsection (d)(11) of this section shall be placed inside the casing and centered opposite the base of the deepest usable quality water stratum and across any multi-stage cementing tool. This plug shall be a minimum of 100 feet in length and shall extend at least 50 feet below and 50 feet above the base of the deepest usable quality water stratum.

  (2) For wells in which the production casing has not been cemented through all usable quality water strata and all productive horizons and if the casing will not be pulled, the production casing shall be perforated at the required depths to place cement outside of the casing by squeeze cementing through casing perforations.

  (3) The district director or the director's delegate may approve a cast iron bridge plug to be placed immediately above each perforated interval, provided at least 20 feet of cement is placed on top of each bridge plug. A bridge plug shall not be set in any well at a depth where the pressure or temperature exceeds the ratings recommended by the bridge plug manufacturer.

  (4) Additionally, plugs shall be set as necessary to separate multiple usable quality water strata by placing the required plug at each depth as determined by the Groundwater Advisory Unit of the Oil and Gas Division.

(h) Plugging requirements for well with screen or liner.

  (1) If practical, the screen or liner shall be removed from the well.

  (2) If the screen or liner is not removed, a cement plug in accordance with subsection (d)(11) of this section shall be placed at the top of the screen or liner.

(i) Plugging requirements for wells without production casing and open-hole completions.

  (1) Any productive horizon or any formation in which a pressure or formation water problem is known to exist shall be isolated by cement plugs centered at the top and bottom of the formation. Each cement plug shall have sufficient slurry volume to fill a calculated height as specified in subsection (d)(11) of this section.

  (2) If the gross thickness of any such formation is less than 100 feet, the tubing or drill pipe shall be suspended 50 feet below the base of the formation. Sufficient slurry volume shall be pumped to fill the calculated height from the bottom of the tubing or drill pipe up to a point at least 50 feet above the top of the formation, plus 10% for each 1,000 feet of depth from the ground surface to the bottom of the plug.

Cont'd...

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