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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Texas Drilling and Well Development (5-TX-a)

In Texas, the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) requires the appropriate drilling permits and supporting documentation for exploratory wells, commercial drilling operations, geothermal wells, and co-production wells. A geothermal resource well is a well drilled within the established limits of a designated geothermal field. 16 TAC 3.79.

Drilling and Well Development Process

5-TX-a.1 to 5-TX-a.2 - Is the Proposed Well Located In a Groundwater Conservation District?

If the proposed well is located in a Texas Groundwater Conservation District then special procedures or restrictions related to drilling and operating a well in the district may apply.

Some groundwater conservation districts require that the developer contact the district before drilling or filing an application with the RRC (not required in all groundwater conservation districts).

Certain districts may require special permits be obtained to operate in the district.

In Texas, groundwater conservation districts are approved by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). The TWDB maintains a map of conservation districts in Texas.

5-TX-a.3 – Organizational Report, Proof of Assurance

Any developer performing operations within the jurisdiction of the RRC’s Oil & Gas Division in accordance with the RRC’s Statewide Rule 1 must file an Organizational Report (Form P-5).

The developer's initial Organization Report must be filed prior to beginning operations within the RRC’s jurisdiction.

Form P-5 Organization Report

As part of the Organization Report the RCC requires financial assurance for most regulated activities including drilling operations, well operations, and pipeline operations. Under 16 TAC 3.78, the RRC requires different levels of financial assurance depending on the scope and nature of the regulated activity. The developer can fulfill the financial assurance requirement with a blanket bond, letter of credit, or cash deposit.

A developer is required to renew its Organization Report annually. The RRC will notify a developer before its refilling date by mailing the developer its previously filed Form P-5.

5-TX-a.4 – Online Drilling Permit Application and Associated Documents

Under 16 TAC 3.5, a developer may not commence operations of drilling, deepening a well, reentering a well, or plugging back until the RRC has granted a permit or until the RRC has authorized the action.

The RRC uses an Online Drilling Permits System that allows developers to complete the RRC’s Application for Permit to Drill, Recomplete or Re-Enter (Form W-1). The online system requires that a developer request a UserID and Password from the RRC. The RRC maintains a Drilling Permits Online Filing User’s Guide. In addition to the technical, spacing, and administrative information required the developer is required to:

  • Provide a neat, accurate plat, with a scale of one inch equals 1,000 feet. The plat for the initial well on the lease, pooled unit, or unitized tract must show the entire lease, pooled unit, or tract, including all tracts being pooled. If necessary to show the entire lease, the scale may be one inch equals 2,000 feet. Plats for subsequent wells on a lease or pooled unit must show at least the lease or pooled unit line nearest the proposed location and the nearest survey/section lines. The Division Director or the director's delegate may approve plats with other scales upon request. The Plat is to include the following:
1. Surface location of the proposed drilling site;
2. Perpendicular lines providing the distance in feet from two nearest non-parallel survey/section lines to the surface location;
3. Perpendicular lines providing the distance in feet from two nearest non-parallel lease lines to the surface location;
4. A line providing the distance in feet from the surface location to the nearest point on the lease line, pooled unit line, or unitized tract line. If there is an unleased interest in a tract of the pooled unit that is nearer than the pooled unit line, the nearest point on that unleased tract boundary shall be used;
5. A line providing the distance in feet from the surface location to the nearest oil, gas, or oil and gas well identified by number either applied for, permitted, or completed in the same lease, pooled unit, or unitized tract and in the same field and reservoir;
6. The geographic location information;
7. A labeled scale bar; and
8. The northerly direction.
Note: At the RRC’s discretion, requirements for plats as provided for in 16 TAC 3.11, 3.37, 3.38, and 3.86 (relating to Inclination and Directional Surveys Required, Statewide Spacing Rule, Well Densities, and Horizontal Drainhole Wells) may supplement or replace the plat requirements set out above.
  • Pay the appropriate fees. The online system calculates fees based on the total drilling depth. There are other fees that can be applied to the permit application:
1. Permit applications with exceptions to Statewide Rules require an additional $200.00 fee.
2. An additional $150.00 fee is required for permit applications that require expedited handling.

5-TX-a.5 to 5-TX-a.8 – Is the Proposed Well Location “Regular”?

A well is considered “regular” unless it falls outside of the provisions under 16 TAC 3.37, 3.38, and/or 3.39 (relating to Statewide Spacing Rule; Well Densities; Proration and Drilling Units: Contiguity of Acreage and Exception Thereto). An RRC exception is required to drill a non “regular” well.

Under 16 TAC 3.37, no well for oil, gas, or geothermal resource may be drilled nearer than 1,200 feet to any well completed in or drilling to the same horizon on the same tract or farm, and no well may be drilled nearer than 467 feet to any property line, lease line, or subdivision line.

Under 16 TAC 3.38, no well for oil, gas, or geothermal resource may be drilled if the well does not meet the RRC’s well density provisions.

Proration and drilling units established for individual wells drilled or to be drilled shall consist of acreage which is contiguous. An exception to the contiguous acreage provision may be granted at the developer’s request if acreage that is to be included in the proration or drilling unit is separated by a long, narrow right-of-way tract.

To file an exception the developer must complete the appropriate forms, provide required documentation, and pay the fee(s) set out in 16 TAC 3.78. Depending on the type of exception requested the RRC may require a hearing. If a hearing is required the RRC will notify the developer and the appropriate parties of the hearing.

The RRC may grant exceptions to permit drilling for wells that are not classified as “regular” when the RCC determines that such exceptions are necessary either to prevent waste or to prevent the confiscation of property.

5-TX-a.9 - Review Application Materials

The RRC will review the Online Drilling Permit Application for technical compliance and completeness.

Note: From the time a W-1 application is created in the online system until it is error-free and submitted, it has a status of "work in progress." When the developer submits the permit, the status changes to "pending approval." After the permit proceeds through the approval process without error, it has a status of "approved." The developer's permit can remain a "work in progress" for 30 days. If the permit is not completed and submitted within 30 days, it is removed from the Work in Progress list. This means that it is deleted and no longer available.

5-TX-a.10 – Well Drilling/Production Permit

The RRC issues Well Drilling and Production Permits.

An email is sent notifying the developer that the permit has been approved. The email contains a link to the developer's drilling permit review page. From this page the developer can access links to a W-1 template containing the data submitted on the application, and to the approved drilling permit, both in PDF file format. These files can be viewed, downloaded or printed for the developer's records or to be posted on the drill site. A copy of the approved drilling permit is mailed to the Operator of record if filed on paper. All permits can be downloaded through the Permit Query online.

5-TX-a.11 to 5-TX-a.12 Drill and Construct Well and File Appropriate Reports

With a valid Well Drilling and Production Permit a developer may begin drilling and constructing the well.

Refer to 16 TAC 3 for detail on casing, reporting, and other specifications. When the well is completed a Well Potential Test, Completion or Recompletion Report, and Log (Form W-2) must be filled with the RRC.

5-TX-a.13 to 5-TX-a.14 Production Test and Production Test Completion Report

Before a well produces any geothermal resources the developer must conduct a production test and file a Geothermal Production Test Completion or Recompletion Report and Log (Production Test Report) (Form GT-1) with the RRC.

The developer must notify his/her RRC district office when he/she is ready to test the well. A Production Test Report, with all information requested filled in, must be filed in the RRC district office not later than 10 days after the test is completed. The initial Production Test Report for any new completion or recompletion must be accompanied by the well record.

Production operations may not be commenced before the Production Test Report is filed and the RRC grants authority to initiate operations.

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