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GWPC Initiates Field Inspection Prioritization Project

In October 2018 the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) initiated a project focused on providing a framework and tools for prioritization of inspections of oil and gas sites based on geographic considerations. The project received positive feedback from member states at the spring 2019 Risk Based Data Management System (RBDMS) training, and GWPC is currently working to implement the solution in Utah.

State oil and gas regulatory agencies have the responsibility of conducting field inspections of oil and gas wells and associated facilities to ensure that regulations, permit conditions, and best management practices (BMPs) are being met. This is often accomplished using dedicated field inspection teams who are trained to document conditions on the ground and to identify potential issues that need to be addressed.

Field inspections are generally scheduled based on operational and geographic sensitivity factors. Examples of operational factors are: pre-drill evaluations, well spuds/completions, well testing, well plugging, and reclamation activities.  Examples of geographic sensitivity factors are: proximity to homes and occupied buildings, distance from surface water resources, depth to groundwater, soil permeability, and distance to municipal and domestic water supplies. This project addresses the geographic sensitivity factors; the operational factors will be addressed in a future project.

GWPC’s field inspection prioritization project defines a process for scoring locations of oil/gas wells and facilities based on geographic sensitivity. The process can be summarized as follows:

  1. Identify and assemble the GIS layers to be used in the evaluation.
  2. Create GIS buffers based on distances considered to be close enough to receptors (e.g. streams, buildings, water wells, etc.) to be of concern should an incident occur at an oil and gas well/facility. It is noted that some layers may not need buffers, such as large wildlife habitat areas, soil polygons, or slope raster images.
  3. Determine if oil and gas wells/facilities intersect these buffers (or other polygons/raster images), and in some cases, determine how many buffers are intersected.
  4. Transfer the GIS intersect results to the RBDMS database.
  5. Execute Priority Score calculations in the RBDMS database.
  6. Provide output database Views for connection to online maps and/or field reports.

The process has been designed with enough flexibility to accommodate geographic evaluations for purposes other than field inspections, such as review of drilling permit applications.

The new prioritization scheme will function with existing state RBDMS databases and online maps. RBDMS is a suite of integrated software products that assists state agencies in the regulating, oversight and management of oil, gas and Underground Injection Control (UIC) facilities and activities. It was developed by GWPC and member states, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy. Over 20 states have implemented one or more RBDMS products and have found that RBDMS increases efficiency in mission-critical tasks. For questions about RBDMS, contact GWPC (Paul Jehn National RBDMS project manager) at

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