Hydraulic Fracturing Is Focus of New ASTM Standards Initiative
Stakeholders are coming together at ASTM to create sound technical standards and best practices
A newly formed ASTM Intl. subcommittee will address the growing need for consensus standards in the dynamic, energy-related field of hydraulic fracturing. Subcommittee D18.26 on Hydraulic Fracturing, which is part of ASTM Committee D18 on Soil and Rock, will bring together a diverse range of stakeholders to collaborate on the development of standards that promote best practices in hydraulic fracturing operations and serve as a steward of environmental resources.
Hydraulic fracturing is a well stimulation process used to maximize the extraction of underground resources, including oil, natural gas and even geothermal energy. Horizontal drilling technologies followed by fracturing enable greater access to these resources found in the shale formations thousands of feet below the earth's surface. This allows oil and natural gas to flow freely from the rock pores to production wells that bring the natural resources to the surface.
ASTM D18.26: Ensuring Safe and Efficient Extraction
With the boom in hydraulic fracturing operations comes increasing concerns in the public and private sector for safety in site infrastructure and well construction, as well as the potential downstream impact on water, land and air resources.
To provide best practices for hydraulic fracturing, diverse stakeholders are coming together at ASTM to create sound technical standards for this dynamic field. Subcommittee D18.26 is planning on developing standards that will cover:
- Background site investigation and permitting;
- Well installation and borehole integrity testing;
- Engineering and drilling techniques;
- Management and disposal of drilling fluids;
- Groundwater monitoring and remediation;
- Reinjection of produced well fluids; and
- Permanent well abandonment and data reporting.
"As the oil and gas industry looks to tap into the vast energy resources in shale formations across the U.S., the surge in hydraulic fracturing activity is expected to continue for years to come," said Kenneth R. Bell, Ph.D., P.E., D.GE, corporate manager of geotechnical and hydraulic engineering services at Bechtel Corp. and vice chairman of ASTM Committee D18. "New standards developed by D18.26 will help direct the work of the industry so that these operations can be performed to accepted best practices and oil and gas can be recovered in a safe and secure manner."
Openness and Objectivity under the ASTM Umbrella
The efforts of Subcommittee D18.26 will be undertaken by the broad cross-section of stakeholders who are joining forces in the open and consensus-driven ASTM process to collaborate on the development of critical standards and achieve mutually beneficial goals. D18.26 will draw its membership from all sides and points of view relative to the hydraulic fracturing issue, including representatives from the oil and gas industry, environmental groups, engineering firms, federal regulators, state and local governments, permitting bodies and academia.
"ASTM is…a true neutral ground where all interested parties can have their voice heard and shape the direction of future standards for hydraulic fracturing," said Dr. John T. Germaine, Ph.D., of the department of civil and environmental engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, vice chairman of Committee D18, and the leader of the task group that formed D18.26. "By participating on this subcommittee, stakeholders can freely air out issues and collaborate on standards that are fair and reasonable, provide guidance for all involved and serve as the watchdog for the needs of the environment."