BLM moves closer to 100% online filing for drilling permits

The US Bureau of Land Management is completing conversion of its oil and gas drilling permit application system to a fully online process and expects to complete the change by yearend, the US Department of the Interior agency reported.

“This modern, online system will result in a better and more efficient experience for both industry and BLM,” Director Neil Kornze said on July 28. “The new system is a big improvement over the current, hard copy-based application system.”

BLM began rolling out the new system in phases in October 2015. To facilitate the change, it also proposed a minor regulatory change—an update to Onshore Order 1—which would make e-filing the default method for submitting drilling permit applications. Comments will be accepted through Aug. 29.

The new system will automatically flag missing or incomplete information in a drilling permit application, reducing one of the current system’s causes for delays, BLM said. It also will let operators track their applications through the entire permit review process, and will let the agency shift work among offices in response to demands.

BLM said its average drilling permit processing time now is 120 days. Once the new system becomes fully functional, it anticipates that it will issue 90% of its drilling permit decisions within 115 days in cases where BLM is the sole surface management agency.

The new system already is being used in BLM’s field offices, where it has been used to process 101 applications already, it said.

It said while the proposed update to Onshore Order 1 would make e-filing the default method, it also recognizes that extenuating circumstances may exist and includes a waiver process so operators may file a hard copy in certain circumstances, such as when online access may be limited or nonexistent. The proposed rule also would apply to Notices of Staking, which serve as a request by oil and gas operators to schedule an on-site visit of a prospective well location, BLM said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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