The structure of hydraulic fracturing regulations from four continents

The structure of hydraulic fracturing regulations from four continents

Speaker: David Campin (University of Queensland, Australia)

Admission FREE, no booking required.


Hydraulic fracturing is a process applied to the exploitation of hydrocarbon and other resources, to increase fluid conductivity to a production well. The process entails environmental risks which are aimed to be managed under specific rules in most jurisdictions where commercial resources of this nature are found. The process can be politically and socially emotive and has grabbed the attention of many people concerned with development of unconventional resources including shales, tight sands and coalbed methane. Despite high levels of community and industry interest, there is scant literature on the anatomy of regulation and hence, no consistent structured analysis of the types and standards of rules implemented worldwide.

This study considers structure and form of regulation from various jurisdictions across the world by deconstructing the rules in order to allow inter-jurisdictional comparison. Using a modification of the “institutional grammar tool” (Crawford and Ostrom 1995), the essential features of each rule within a legislated regulatory framework are identified and a rigorous typology identifies whether the rule is prescriptive, process-based, principle-based or performance-based. Over 50 sub-activities of hydraulic fracturing operations that come under regulatory control are identified and analysed within the typology, giving insight directly into more than 30 different jurisdictions globally. This paper will present initial findings of this exploratory research and throws new light on the rigour of rule-making for hydraulic fracturing. Of particular interest to social research, are rules relating to governance agency/operator/third party interactions.

The analysis, based predominantly on recent legislation, shows overwhelming application of prescription and the use of performance-based rules as a rarity, despite claims by some jurisdictions to the opposite.

Ultimately, this research aims to identify legislative design effectiveness where industrial outcomes have met community expectations exemplified through high compliance levels. The typology provides a platform from which to more deeply understand the processes underway.

Crawford, Sue, Elinor Ostrom. 1995. A grammar of institutions (in American Political Science Review89 (3): 582-600.

Hosted by
School of Law
New King's NK14

Suzi Warren
Research, Commercial and Events Secretary
Tel: +44 (0) 1224 273421