RBDMS Field Inspection Prioritization Module Increases Efficiency and Provides Valuable Insights

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In early 2020 the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (UDOGM) implemented the RBDMS Field Inspection Prioritization (FIP) module. The module, using a variety of data points and GIS technology, generates a map that marks which oil and gas wells should receive priority inspection. The FIP module speeds up the process of determining which wells to inspect and allows inspectors to budget their inspection times in an efficient manner. Inspectors are able to use the map to strategically plan their routes, as they can now see which specific areas of the state may have a number of wells in need of inspection that are grouped closely together and plan their trips accordingly. The program also generates useful data that UDOGM can use to best allocate their own resources and show state legislative decision makers how public funds are being successfully used and any areas that may need more funding.

UDOGM is charged with inspecting around 6,000 wells; ideally, each well is inspected at least once every 365 days. The FIP module takes information on receptors (any resource such as ground and surface water, soil, and people and wildlife that could be impacted by the well) and aggravators (any factor that could impact well status, such as age, compliance, and time since last inspection) for each well. The FIP module then determines which aggravators could increase the likelihood of impacting a receptor, aggregates the data, and ranks on a scale of 1-3
which wells should receive priority inspection (1 is the highest priority to inspect). The module also generates a map with the location of each well, and each well is colored according to priority level. The map allows inspectors to add or remove geographic layers such as roads, rivers, geographical areas, and section lines to better help the inspector best plan their inspection route and schedule. Inspectors are also able to generate a report with each well’s current status.

According to Bart Kettle, Deputy Director of UDOGM, before the implementation of the FIP module, every inspector had their own process for determining which wells to inspect first, with very little data to go on. Inspectors just had “the date of last inspection, the township and their range of inspection,” says Kettle, “and it would take up to a week to plan inspection routes for the year. Inspectors had to learn the geography and access points for each well, since that information wasn’t readily available. Sometimes, you might miss 50 wells because you couldn’t read your own notes and it’s hard to keep track of 1,000 wells. Now [the FIP module] does all the analysis while you’re sleeping, and you can make informed decisions off the data.”

When the FIP module was deployed in late January 2020, the average time between inspections for each well was 376 days. Although there was a slight increase in days between inspection for the first two months while inspectors were familiarizing themselves with the program, by October 2020 the average time between inspection decreased to 308 days, a 60-day difference in a matter of 10 months. The end of 2020 saw a slight uptick of time between inspection, but, according to Kettle, that was because a single inspector retired in combination with a dramatic increase in demand for remaining inspectors’ time to witness well plug and abandonment operations. The ability to see how the time between inspection changes allows
managers to see how staffing relates to inspections and how other things like plugging activity affects inspection rates. Kettle says this data is crucial to making staffing decisions and funding requests. Because he can now see specific correlations between resources and time between inspections, he can make better and mor convincing arguments for funding.

Apart from generating a ranking of which wells to prioritize, the FIP module has recently been updated to include a prioritization of which incidents (primarily spills) to inspect, as well as which facilities are in need of inspection. Incidents and facilities may have need for prompt follow-up
inspections. “The turnaround for an inspection every 60 days at a facility comes up fast,” Kettle says, and the FIP module “has been great in alerting inspectors when to visit those facilities in need of inspection.”

Overall, the FIP module has benefited three user groups: inspectors, managers, and funders. The module allows inspectors to quickly see a map of which wells to inspect and ensures that no well goes uninspected. The program also allows managers to make key decisions on where resources should be allocated, and to make sense of where the agency may be stretched thin. Finally, the data from the FIP module allows funders, especially those in state government, to quickly and concisely see any funding issues that need to be addressed. According to Kettle, “These are extremely busy people and have a lot of demands on their time. [The FIP module] is able to quickly generate an easily digestible graphic and a handful of statistics that they can understand. It has helped our program get support on a few items that I don’t think we would have gotten otherwise.”

The FIP module is easily customizable, so other state agencies can define their own rules for prioritizing wells. For other states who are looking to implement the module, Kettle recommends involving the end users (primarily inspectors) as much as possible, as they will give input and ideas that will give states a better product in the end. He also recommends starting off simple and adding elements as users get a feel for the product and what else might be needed. Overall, Kettle says the program has been well received by his staff, and that they tell him “[The program] is great, it helps me catch things that I might have missed otherwise.”

The Field Inspection Prioritization module is part of RBDMS, 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 [email protected]