Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry
September 2020

Vol. 25, No.37 Week of September 13, 2020

AOGCC refuses reconsideration request

French, a former commissioner, wants gas release treated as waste; commission requires gas disposition reports, OK’d this release

Kristen Nelson

Petroleum News

The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has denied a reconsideration request from Hollis French on his complaint of waste from a Prudhoe Bay well which failed in 2017.

The commission had initially denied a petition from French, an attorney and former commissioner of AOGCC, for a hearing on waste from the well. French appealed the decision and an Alaska Superior Court judge ruled the commission must hold a hearing.

The hearing was held June 23.

On July 28, the commission, citing its enabling statute and regulations, ruled that French failed to demonstrate that waste occurred.

French filed for reconsideration, a request the commission denied in an Aug. 24 ruling.

The commission said that at the June 23 hearing “French stated that his waste petition was premised solely on his view that gas escaping into the air constitutes waste as a matter of strict liability”; he also argued the well failure created a dangerous situation.

“Because French’s strict liability claim was contrary to the language of AOGCC’s enabling act … and its regulations … AOGCC determined in Other Order 151 that French had failed to demonstrate waste occurred,” the commission said.

The gas release

The commission said in its denial of reconsideration that shortly after the 2017 failure at the well, “AOGCC determined the gas which escaped was not waste under (its regulations). French was an AOGCC commissioner at the time.”

In his reconsideration request French said the commission was ignoring evidence and “is not, to put it mildly, doing its job.” He quoted a statement by Prudhoe Bay operator BP Exploration (Alaska) to the commission that an estimated 1.8 million standard cubic feet of natural gas were released from the well.

“That sentence is a confession,” French said.

He disputed the commission’s statement that it had made a determination that the gas was not waste.

“It is possible that a single commissioner took some action on the matter,” and if that is the case, French said, AOGCC should publish its proof.

He said: “a single commissioner cannot bind the Commission.”

Gas disposition reports

In denying the reconsideration, the commission said monthly gas disposition reports are required of all operators “accounting for the disposition of all gas at a production facility, including gas which was flared, vented or escaped.” The commission can authorize “flaring/venting lasting over an hour under certain circumstances” which include emergencies threatening life or property.

“The well failure and its cause were the subject of numerous discussions among the commissioners, as well as AOGCC staff,” the commission said.

In June 2017 BP provided the commission a 14-page update on the cause of the well failure, and after receipt of that report Commissioner Cathy Foerster “signed the gas disposition report authorizing the venting of the gas.

At the time French neither voiced objection to nor disagreement with that authorization, the commission said. “AOGCC also decided to take no enforcement action against BPXA. French neither voiced disagreement with nor objection to that decision.”

The commission’s denial of reconsideration is its final order.

French can appeal the decision in superior court. He has 33 days to appeal.

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