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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Utah Drilling and Well Development (5-UT-a)


Drilling and Well Development Process

Although not regulated under the Administrative Rules for Water Wells, geothermal wells are subject to Section 73-22-1 "Utah Geothermal Resource Conservation Act" Utah Code Annotated and the rules promulgated by the state engineer including Section R655-1, Wells Used for the Discovery and Production of Geothermal Energy in the State of Utah.


5-UT-a.1 - Has the Environmental Process Been Completed for Drilling?

If the developer has not yet completed an environmental review process for drilling activities, the developer must do so before proceeding.


5-UT-a.2 - Environmental Review Process

The developer must make make sure to undergo an environmental process before drilling. For example, on BLM land, the BLM will not issue a drilling permit until the developer can show he or she has complied with NEPA. For similar ground-disturbing activities on state land or private land, the developer must comply with any state or local environmental regulations.

Environmental Overview: 9


5-UT-a.3 - If Water Rights Are Required, Have They Been Secured?

In Utah, if a developer's drilling activities will have any effect on water in the area, the developer must secure a water right.


5-UT-a.4 - Initiate Water Access/Rights Process

Water Access and Water Rights Issues:
19-UT-a


5-UT-a.5 - Is the Geothermal Resource Greater than 120 Degrees C?

According to the Utah Geothermal Resource Conservation Act, "geothermal fluid" means water and steam at temperatures greater than 120 degrees centigrade naturally present in a geothermal system."

"Geothermal resource" is defined as the "natural heat of the earth at temperatures greater than 120 degrees centigrade" and "the energy, in whatever form, created by, or which may be extracted from that natural heat, directly or through a material medium."


5-UT-a.6 - Direct Use/Low Temperature Geothermal; Continue with Project

Geothermal fluids under 120 degrees centigrade are not considered geothermal resources for the purposes of geothermal well permits, but may still be utilized for low temperature/direct use applications.


5-UT-a.7 - Notice of Intent

According to UC 73-22-6 (Utah Geothermal Resource Conservation Act), the developer must file an NOI with the Division of Water Rights before the developer drills, redrills, deepens, permanently alters the casing of, or abandons any well. "Approval of the notice of intent must be obtained from the division prior to commencement of operations."


5-UT-a.8 - Will Developer Drill a New Well or Modify an Existing Well?

The developer must follow one of two different procedures depending on whether the developer is drilling a new well or modifying an existing well.


5-UT-a.9 - Application for Written Approval, Surety or Cash Bond, and Well Driller's Permit

Application to Deepen or Modify an Existing Well

If the owner or operator plans to deepen, redrill, plug, or perform any operation that will in any manner modify the well, an application shall be filed with the Division and written approval must be received prior to beginning work; however, in an emergency, the owner or operator may take action to prevent damage without receiving prior written approval from the Division, but in those cases the owner or operator shall report his action to the Division as soon as possible.

(R655-1-2.1.3)


Bonds

2.3.1 Any operator having approval to drill, re-enter, test, alter or operate a well, prior to any construction or operation, shall file with the Division of Water Rights and obtain its approval of a surety bond, payable to the Division of Water Rights for not less than $10,000 for each individual well or $50,000 for all wells. The bond shall be on a form prescribed by the Division and shall be conditioned on faithful compliance with all statutes and these rules.

2.3.2 Bonds remain in force for the life of the well or wells and may not be released until the well or wells are properly abandoned or another valid bond is substituted.

2.3.3 Transfer of property does not release the bond. If any property is transferred and the principal desires to be released from his bond, the operator shall:

a. Assign or transfer ownership in the manner prescribed in Sections 73-1-10 and 73-3-18, identifying the right by application number, well number or location and,

b. Provide the Division with a declaration in writing from the assignee or transferee that he accepts the assignment and tenders his own bond therewith or therein accepts responsibility under his blanket bond on file with the Division.

(R655-1-2.3)


5-UT-a.10 - Application, Plan of Operations, Surety or Cash Bond, and Well Driller's Permit

Application to Drill for Geothermal Resources

Any person, owner or operator, who proposes to drill a well for the production of geothermal resources or to drill an injection well shall first apply to the Division in accordance with Title 73, Chapter 3. Applications to appropriate water for geothermal purposes will be processed and investigated by the Division, and if they meet the requirements of Section 73-3-8, they will be approved by the State Engineer on a well-to-well basis or as a group of wells which comprise an operating unit and have like characteristics.


Plan of Operations

Under R655-1-2.1.2, the developer must submit a plan of operations to the State Engineer before drilling any exploratory or production well.

The plan must include:

(a) Location, elevation and layout.

(b) Lease identification and Well Number.

(c) Tools and equipment description including maximum capacity and depth rating.

(d) Expected depth and geology.

(e) Drilling, mud, cementing and casing program.

(f) BOPE installation and test.

(g) Logging, coring and testing program.

(h) Methods for disposal of waste materials.

(i) Environmental considerations.

(j) Emergency procedures.

(k) Other information as the State Engineer may require.


Bonds

2.3.1 Any operator having approval to drill, re-enter, test, alter or operate a well, prior to any construction or operation, shall file with the Division of Water Rights and obtain its approval of a surety bond, payable to the Division of Water Rights for not less than $10,000 for each individual well or $50,000 for all wells. The bond shall be on a form prescribed by the Division and shall be conditioned on faithful compliance with all statutes and these rules.

2.3.2 Bonds remain in force for the life of the well or wells and may not be released until the well or wells are properly abandoned or another valid bond is substituted.

2.3.3 Transfer of property does not release the bond. If any property is transferred and the principal desires to be released from his bond, the operator shall:

a. Assign or transfer ownership in the manner prescribed in Sections 73-1-10 and 73-3-18, identifying the right by application number, well number or location and,

b. Provide the Division with a declaration in writing from the assignee or transferee that he accepts the assignment and tenders his own bond therewith or therein accepts responsibility under his blanket bond on file with the Division.

(R655-1-2.3)


5-UT-a.11 - Review Application/Plan of Operations

Before approving or disapproving any application and/or plan of operations, the Division will review all materials.


5-UT-a.12 - Give Notice to Other Agencies

Notice to other agencies

Notice of applications, permits, orders, or other actions received or issued by the Division may be given to any other agency or entity which may have information, comments, or interest in the activity involved.

(R655-1-2.1.6)


5-UT-a.13 - Approve Application/Plan of Operations

If the application and plan of operations satisfy the requirements, the Department will approve the application and/or plan of operations.


5-UT-a.14 - Observe Logging, Casing, Well Spacing, and BOPE Requirements

Electric Logging

All wells, except observation wells for monitoring purposes only, shall be logged with an induction electrical log or equivalent or gamma-neutron log from the bottom of the hole to the bottom of the conductor pipe. This requirement may be modified or waived by the Division upon written request if such request demonstrates sufficient existing data of surrounding wells.

(R655-1-2.8)


Casing

2.7 Casing Requirements:

  • 2.7.1 General.

All wells shall be cased in a manner to protect or minimize damage to the environment, usable ground waters and surface waters, geothermal resources, life, health, and property. The permanent well head completion equipment shall be attached to the production casing or to the intermediate casing if production casing does not reach the surface.

Specifications for casing strings shall be determined or approved on a well-to-well basis. All casing strings reaching the surface shall provide adequate anchorage for blowout-prevention equipment, hole pressure control and protection for all natural resources. The casing requirements given are general but should be used as guidelines in submitting proposals to drill.

  • 2.7.2 Conductor Casing.

A minimum of 40 feet of conductor casing shall be installed. The annular space is to be cemented solid to the surface. A 24-hour cure period for the grout must be allowed prior to drilling out the shoe unless additives approved by the State Engineer are used to obtain early strength. An annular blowout preventer shall be installed on all exploratory wells and on development wells when deemed necessary by the Division. For low-temperature geothermal wells less than 90 degrees C. this requirement may be reduced or waived by the State Engineer.

  • 2.7.3 Surface Casing.

Except in the case of low-temperature geothermal wells, the surface casing hole shall be logged with an induction electrical log, or equivalent, before running casing or by gamma-neutron log. This requirement may vary from area to area, depending upon the amount of pre-existing subsurface geological data available. If sufficient subsurface geologic data is available, the State Engineer may not require additional logging of the surface casing hole. However, permission to omit this requirement must be granted by the Division prior to running surface casing.

Surface casing shall provide for control of formation fluids, for protection of shallow usable ground water and for adequate anchorage for blowout-prevention equipment. All surface casing shall be cemented solid to the surface. A 24-hour cure period shall be allowed prior to drilling out the shoe of the surface casing unless additives approved by the State Engineer are used to obtain early strength.

  • 2.7.3.1 Length of Surface Casing.

(a) In areas where subsurface geological conditions are variable or unknown, surface casing in general shall be set at a depth of wells drilled in those areas. A minimum of surface casing shall be set through a sufficient series of low permeability, competent lithologic units to ensure a solid anchor for blowout-prevention equipment and to protect usable ground water and surface water from contamination. A second string or intermediate casing may be required if the first string has not been cemented through a sufficient series of low permeability, competent lithologic units and either a rapidly increasing geothermal gradient or rapidly increasing formation pressures are encountered.

(b) In areas of known high formation pressure, surface casing shall be set at a depth approved by the Division after a careful study of geological conditions.

(c) Within the confines of designated geothermal fields, the depth to which surface casing shall be set shall be approved by the Division on the basis of known field conditions.

(d) These requirements may be reduced or waived by the State Engineer for low-temperature geothermal wells.

  • 2.7.3.2 Mud Return Temperatures.

The temperature of the return mud shall be monitored regularly during the drilling of the surface casing hole. Either a continuous temperature monitoring device shall be installed and maintained in working condition, or the temperature shall be read manually. In either case, return mud temperature shall be logged after each joint of pipe has been drilled down 30 feet.

  • 2.7.3.3 Blowout-Prevention Equipment.

BOPE capable of shutting-in the well during any operation shall be installed on the surface casing and maintained ready for use at all times. BOPE pressure tests shall be witnessed by Division personnel on all exploratory wells prior to drilling out the shoe of the surface casing. The decision to require and witness BOPE pressure tests on all other wells shall be made on a well-to-well basis. The Division must be contacted 24 hours in advance of a scheduled pressure test. The State Engineer may give verbal permission to proceed with the test upon request by the operator.

  • 2.7.4 Intermediate Casing.

Intermediate casing shall be required for protection against unusual pressure zones, cave-ins, wash- outs, abnormal temperature zones, uncontrollable lost circulation zones or other drilling hazards. Intermediate casing strings shall be cemented solid to the surface or to the top of the liner hanger whenever the intermediate casing string is run as a liner. The liner lap shall be pressure tested prior to resumption of drilling.

  • 2.7.5 Production Casing.

Production casing may be set above or through the producing or injection zone and cemented above the injection zones. Sufficient cement shall be used to exclude overlying formation fluids from the geothermal zone, to segregate zones and to prevent movement of fluids behind the casing into zones that contain usable ground water. Production casing shall either be cemented solid to the surface or lapped into intermediate casing, if run. If the production casing is lapped into an intermediate casing, the casing overlap shall be at least 100 feet, the lap shall be cemented solid, and it shall be pressure tested to ensure its integrity.

(R655-1-2.7)


Spacing

2.4 Well Spacing:

  • 2.4.1 Any well drilled for the discovery or production of geothermal resources or as an injection well shall be located 100 feet or more from and within the outer boundary of the parcel of land on which the well is situated, or 100 feet or more from a public road, street, or highway dedicated prior to the commencement of drilling. This requirement may be modified or waived by the State Engineer upon written request if it can be demonstrated that public safety is preserved and that the integrity of the geothermal source is not jeopardized.
  • 2.4.2 For several contiguous parcels of land in one or different ownerships that are operated as a single geothermal field, the term outer boundary line means the outer boundary line of the land included in the field. In determining the contiguity of parcels of land, no street, road, or alley lying within the lease or field shall be determined to interrupt such contiguity.
  • 2.4.3 The State Engineer shall approve the proposed well spacing programs or prescribe modifications to the programs as he deems necessary for proper development giving consideration to factors as, but not limited to, topographic characteristics of the area, the number of wells that can be economically drilled to provide the necessary volume of geothermal resources for the intended use, protecting correlative rights, minimizing well interference, unreasonable interference with multiple use of lands, and protection of the environment.

(R655-1-2.4)


BOPE

3.1 General.

  • 3.1.1 Blowout-Prevention Equipment (BOPE) installations shall include high temperature-rated packing units and ram rubbers, if available, and shall have a minimum working-pressure rating equal to or greater than the lesser of:

(a) A pressure equal to the product of the depth of the BOPE anchor string in feet times one psi per foot.

(b) A pressure equal to the rated burst pressure of the BOPE anchor string.

(c) A pressure equal to 2,000 psi.

Specific inspections and tests of the BOPE may be made by the Division. The requirements for tests will be included in the Division's answer to the notice of the intention to drill.

  • 3.1.2 A Division employee may be present at the well at any time during the drilling.
  • 3.1.3 A logging unit equipped to regularly record the following data shall be installed and operated continuously after drilling out the shoe of the conductor pipe and until the well has been drilled to the total depth.

(a) Drilling mud temperature.

(b) Drilling mud pit level.

(c) Drilling mud pump volume.

(d) Drilling mud weight.

(e) Drilling rate.

(f) Hydrogen sulfide gas volume.

The Division may waive the requirement for installation of a logging unit on evidence that the owner or operator has engaged a qualified mud engineer to monitor, log and record the data specified in the above subparagraphs a. through d. The drilling rate required in subparagraph e. shall be logged with standard industry recording devices, and hydrogen sulfide monitoring and safety equipment shall be provided whenever needed to satisfy the requirement of subparagraph f.

3.2 Requirements Using Mud as the Drilling Fluid.

The following requirements are for exploratory areas, unstable areas containing fumaroles, geysers, hot springs, mud pots, and for fields with a history of lost circulation, a blowout, or zone pressures less than 1000 psi. These requirements may be reduced by the State Engineer where the geothermal formations are known to be shallow and of low pressure and temperature.

(a) An annular BOPE and a spool, fitted with a low-pressure safety pop-off and blow-down line, installed on the conductor pipe may be required to ensure against possible gas blowouts during the drilling of the surface casing hole.

(b) Annular BOPE and pipe-ram/blind-ram BOPE with a minimum working pressure rating of 2,000 psi shall be installed on the surface casing so that the well can be shut-in at any time. The double-ram preventer shall have a mechanical locking device.

(c) A hydraulic actuating system utilizing an accumulator of sufficient capacity and a high pressure auxiliary back-up system. This total system shall be equipped with dual controls: one at the driller's station and one at least 50 feet away from the well head.

(d) Kelly cock and standpipe valve.

(e) A fill-up line installed above the BOPE.

(f) A kill line installed below the BOPE, leading directly to the mud pumps and fitted with a valve through which cement could be pumped if necessary.

(g) A blow-down line fitted with two valves installed below the BOPE. The blow-down line shall be directed in a manner to permit containment of produced fluids and to minimize any safety hazard to personnel.

(h) All lines and fittings shall be steel and have a minimum working-pressure rating of at least that required of the BOPE.

(i) The temperature of the return mud during the drilling of the surface casing hole shall be monitored regularly. Either a continuous temperature monitoring device shall be installed and maintained in working condition, or the temperature shall be read manually. In either case, return mud temperatures shall be logged after each joint of pipe is drilled down every 30 feet.

3.3 Requirements Using Air as the Drilling Fluid.

The following requirements are for areas where it is known that dry steam exists at depth or formation pressures are less than hydrostatic:

(a) A rotating-head installed at the top of the BOPE stack.

(b) A pipe-ram/blind-ram BOPE, with a minimum working-pressure rating of 1,000 psi, installed below the rotating-head so that the well can be shut-in at any time.

(c) A banjo-box or mud-cross steam diversion unit installed below the double-ram BOPE fitted with a muffler capable of lowering sound emissions to within State standards.

(d) A blind-ram BOPE, with a minimum working-pressure rating of 1,000 psi, installed below the banjo- box or mud-cross so that the well can be shut-in while removing the rotating-head during bit changes.

(e) A master gate valve, with a minimum working-pressure rating of 600 psi, installed below the blind-ram so that the well can be shut-in after the well has been completed, prior to removal of the BOPE stack.

(f) All ram-type BOPE shall have a hydraulic actuating system utilizing an accumulator of sufficient capacity and a high-pressure backup system.

(g) Dual control stations for hydraulic backup system: one at the driller's station and the other at least 50 feet away from the well head.

(h) Float and standpipe valves.

(i) A kill line installed below the BOPE, leading directly to the mud pumps and fitted with a valve through which cement could be pumped if necessary.

(j) All lines and fittings must be steel and have a minimum working-pressure rating of 1,000 psi.

(R655-1-3.1)


5-UT-a.15 - Observe Maintenance and Abandonment Requirements

Maintenance

7.1 General: All well heads, separators, pumps, mufflers, manifolds, valves, pipelines, and other equipment used for the production of geothermal resources shall be maintained in good condition in order to prevent loss of or damage to life, health, property, and natural resources.

7.2 Corrosion: All surface well head equipment and pipelines and subsurface casing and tubing will be subject to periodic corrosion surveillance in order to safeguard health, life, property, and natural resources.

7.3 Tests: The Division may require tests or remedial work as in its judgment are necessary to prevent damage to life, health, property, and natural resources, to protect geothermal reservoirs from damage or to prevent the infiltration of detrimental substances into underground or surface water suitable for irrigation or other beneficial uses to the best interest of the neighboring property owners and the public. Tests may include, but are not limited to, casing tests, cementing tests, and equipment tests.

(R655-1-7)


Abandonment and Sealing

6.1 Objectives: The objectives of abandonment are to block interzonal migration of fluids so as to:

(a) Prevent contamination of fresh waters or other natural resources.

(b) Prevent damage to geothermal reservoirs.

(c) Prevent loss of reservoir energy.

(d) Protect life, health, environment and property.

6.2 General Requirements: The following are general requirements which are subject to review and modification for individual wells or field conditions:

(a) A notice of intent to abandon geothermal resource wells is required to be filed with the Division five days prior to beginning abandonment procedures. A permit to abandon may be given orally by the State Engineer provided the operator submits a written request for abandonment within 24 hours of the oral request.

(b) A history of geothermal resource wells shall be filed within sixty days after completion of abandonment procedures.

(c) All wells abandoned shall be monumented and the description of the monument shall be included in the history of well report. Monument shall consist of a four-inch diameter pipe 10 feet in length of which four feet shall be above ground. The remainder shall be imbedded in concrete. The applicant's name, application number, and location of the well shall be shown on the monument. An abandoned well on tilled land shall be marked in a manner approved by the State Engineer.

(d) Good quality, heavy drilling fluid shall be used to replace any water in the hole and to fill all portions of the hole not plugged with grout.

(e) All grout plugs with a possible exception of the surface plug shall be pumped into the hole through drill pipe or tubing.

(f) All open annuli shall be filled solid with grout to the surface.

(g) A minimum of 100 feet of grout shall be emplaced straddling the interface or transition zone at the base of ground water aquifers.

(h) One hundred feet of grout shall straddle the placement of the shoe plug on all casings including conductor pipe.

(i) A surface plug of either neat cement or concrete mix shall be in place from the top of the casing to at least 50 feet below the top of the casing.

(j) All casing shall be cut off at least five feet below land surface.

(k) Grout plugs shall extend at least 50 feet over the top of any liner installed in the well.

(l) Injection wells are required to be abandoned in the same manner as other wells.

(m) Other abandonment procedures may be approved by the Division if the owner or operator can demonstrate that the geothermal resource, ground waters, and other natural resources will be protected. Approval must be given in writing prior to the beginning of any abandonment procedures.

(n) Within five days after the completion of the abandonment of any well or injection well, the owner or operator of the abandoned well or injection well shall report in writing to the Division on all work done with respect to the abandonment.

(R655-1-6)




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Edit Utah Division of Water Rights
State Exploration and Well Development Contact
801.538.7407
Johnsolum@utahabbazabbagov
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Edit Utah Division of Water Rights
Drilling/Well Development Contact
801.538.7314
jimgoddard@utahabbazabbagov
Visit Website