Regulatory Requirements Associated with Seismic Studies

Seismic studies on non-federal lands are regulated by the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission; seismic studies on federal lands must follow the relevant requirements of the Bureau of Land Management.

State Requirements

Seismic studies on non-federal lands are regulated by the Arkansas Oil and Gas Commission (AOGC) through AOGC Rule B–42 Seismic Rules and Regulations.

Operators seeking to conduct seismic studies must file an application with the AOGC. The application package includes various pieces of information:

  • Where the studies will be conducted;

  • How many shot holes will be used;

  • The amount of explosives that will be employed; and

  • When the studies will be undertaken.

Form 19 – Application for Permit to Conduct Seismic Studies

The permit itself is issued on: Form 19a – Permit to Conduct Seismic Operations

Along with the application, the operator must provide a surety bond to the AOGC. Bonds are held open by the AOGC until seismic studies are completed and any eventual damages have been settled. Form 19b – Seismic Bond

Following completion of the seismic study, the shot holes must be plugged in accordance with AOGC Rule B-10 – Seismic Core and Other Exploratory Holes to Be Plugged; Methods, Records

The bond is released using Form 19C – Seismic Release

Federal Requirements

When the seismic studies occur on federal lands, companies must follow the relevant requirements from Chapter 2 of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Gold Book.

Chapter 2 identifies the basic procedures necessary for ensuring the efficient review and approval of environmentally responsible geophysical exploration. Portions of Chapter 2 are provided here.

Prior to conducting operations, the operator must contact the surface management agency to obtain approval. Requirements for operations on BLM-administered lands can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations at 43 CFR 3150 and on National Forest System lands in the Forest Service (FS) Manual.

A geophysical operator is required to file a Notice of Intent (NOI) and Authorization to Conduct Oil and Gas Geophysical Exploration Operations (BLM Form 3150-4/FS Form 2800-16) with the BLM for operations on BLM administered lands, with the FS for operations on National Forest System lands, and with both agencies for operations that overlap lands managed by both agencies. However, geophysical operations or testing that are conducted for a lessee entirely within the lessee’s federal oil and gas lease are considered lease operations that may be permitted either by Sundry Notice or by NOI. The operator will be apprised of practices and procedures to be followed prior to commencing operations on BLM or National Forest System lands. The NOI shall include site-specific project information and field techniques to minimize surface impacts; a map showing the location of the proposed 2D geophysical lines or 3D source and receiver proposed locations; all access routes and ancillary facilities; and a proposed schedule of field activities. The map should be at a minimum scale of one-half inch equals 1 mile; however, a 1:24,000 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographic map is recommended.

The party filing the NOI (named on the top of the form) will need a bond for most operations. On BLM-managed lands, the geophysical exploration operator is required to be bonded. On National Forest System lands, the authorized officer will decide whether a bond is required. When applicable, a copy of the bond or other evidence of satisfactory bonding must accompany the NOI. Holders of statewide or nationwide oil and gas lease bonds may satisfy this requirement by obtaining a rider to include coverage of geophysical operations. For geophysical operation methods involving surface disturbance, a cultural resources survey may be necessary. In some circumstances, sensitive or threatened and endangered species surveys may also be necessary.

The completion and signing of the NOI signifies agreement to comply with its terms and conditions and subsequent practices and procedures specified by the authorized officer. A prework field conference is recommended and may be conducted by the surface management agency. Earth-moving equipment shall not be used without prior approval. Upon completion of operations, including any required reclamation, the operator is required to file a Notice of Completion (NOC) of Oil and Gas Geophysical Exploration Operations (BLM Form 3150-5/FS Form 2800-16a).

The authorized officer will contact the operator after the NOI is filed and inform the operator of the practices and procedures to be followed and the estimated time frame for approval. On National Forest System lands, a user fee will be assessed for operations on federal lands that are not under lease by the operator.

The authorized officer will complete a final post-work inspection of the site and notify the operator that the terms and conditions of the NOI have been met or that additional action is required by the operator. Consent to release the bond or terminate liability will not be granted by the surface management agency until the operator has met the terms and conditions of the NOI.

Split Estate Minerals Administered by the BLM

Where the minerals are federally owned and the surface is privately or state owned, no authorization is necessary from the federal government to conduct geophysical operations. Operators must work with the surface owner to obtain access to private lands and the state permitting agency for authorization of operations proposed on state lands.

See also Endangered Species Act (ESA) Provisions

This regulatory information is provided as guidance to viewers. It should not be used as the sole source of information concerning the relevant and applicable regulatory requirements. Agency organization, laws and regulations, and Web linkages are subject to change. Therefore viewers are encouraged to check with the appropriate regulatory agencies for authorized up-to-date information.
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