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Gas Well Inspections

The City of Denton is located atop the eastern edge of the Barnett Shale. As a result, numerous gas wells have been drilled within our city limits and extraterritorial jurisdiction. The Gas Well Inspections Division works to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the public and to ensure the orderly and practical development of mineral resources in a manner compatible with existing and future development of affected surface uses.

How to use the Gas Well Locator Map

For information about gas wells or inspections, contact (940) 349-8369 orGasWells@cityofdenton.com. After-hours calls should be directed to the non-emergency Police desk at (940) 349-8181.

To learn more about gas well site locations and view inspection reports by site, please visit the Gas Well Locator Map to the right. Information on the ongoing Inspection Program is found below.

Overview
The City of Denton’s first Gas Well Ordinance was adopted on Dec. 4, 2001, as part of the zoning code and subdivision and land development code. Since its adoption, the City has amended its Gas Well Ordinance from time to time to address land-use compatibility concerns for gas well drilling and production activities and to reconcile the local ordinance with state law. The ordinance includes provisions addressing safety, noise levels, setbacks, lighting, traffic, dust, other nuisances, and so forth.

More information about the City of Denton’s regulatory authority, gas well inspections, and FAQs are found below. 

To view gas well sites and inspection reports, use the Gas Well Locator. For gas well activity and notice of activities by the operators, view the Notification of Gas Well Activity.

Gas Well Development within the City of Denton Limits (COD)
Within the city limits, new gas well pad sites, or the expansion or modification of existing sites, must complete the following steps and approvals:

  • Land Use Compatibility and Site Plan
    Gas Well Development Site Plans are required for all new pad sites, as well as for the expansion or modification of existing sites within the city limits. Site plan submittals are required to address the setbacks of the site from any existing protected uses (as outlined in DDC 35.5.10.2.B), placement of equipment and wellheads, access and transportation routes, erosion control measures, landscaping and tree preservation, and noise mitigation. Before a site plan submittal can be made, an operator is required to provide notice to surrounding property owners. Proof of this notification must be submitted with the site plan. Review of a proposed site plan ensuring compliance with the ordinance requirements is handled administratively by staff.

    For operators, to begin the Gas Well Development Site Plan process, login to eTrakit, under “Projects” and select “Apply”. After completing, you will receive an email from ProjectDox inviting you to upload your documents. Complete the Gas Well Development Site Plan Application (COD) and upload to ProjectDox along with your drawings and other supporting documents as described in the Gas Well Development Site Plan Checklist (COD).
     
  • Gas Well Permit and Inspections
    Once the Gas Well Development Site Plan is approved, an operator can apply for a Gas Well Permit by completing the Gas Well Permit Application and returning it to Development Services. A Gas Well Permit is a written license that is granted by the City of Denton pursuant to Subchapter 35.5.10.5, authorizing Drilling and Production Activities.
     
    There are six initial inspections made at the following phases of gas well development by the Gas Well Inspections Division:
    • Pre-drilling – Inspecting for compliance with the site plan
    • Drilling – Inspecting for compliance with Fire codes, site plan layouts and nuisance mitigation
    • Completion activities – Inspecting for compliance with nuisance mitigation, sound level reports, and site layout
    • Flowback – Inspecting for compliance with nuisance mitigation, flaring, dust and odor, traffic, light, and sound
    • First sales – Inspecting for compliance with site layout for the production operations of the wells, and the gas well equipment
    • Plugging – Inspecting for compliance associated with restoration and RRC filed reports
    In addition to the Gas Well Permit, an operator must comply with the permits and inspections required by Fire Code, as outlined below.
     
  • Fire and Emergency Response Permits and Inspections
    After a Gas Well Development Site Plan is approved, the operator is notified of the following Fire Code requirements for construction and operation of a well. All permits must be submitted in person or by mail to 215 W. Hickory St, Denton, TX 76201. The passing of an on-site inspection is required before each permit type can be issued.

    Fire Department Construction Permit Fire Department Operational Permits

Additional steps that may be required, depending upon the site, include a Specific Use Permit (SUP), Watershed Protection Permit (WPP), Fence Permit, Tree Mitigation, or Clearing and Grading Permit.

Development within the City of Denton Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ)
An approved Gas Well Development Plat and applicable County permits are needed for gas well development within the City of Denton ETJ.
  • Gas Well Development Plat
    A Gas Well Development Plat is the initial approval authorizing wells to be drilled at one Drilling and Production Site within the City of Denton’s ETJ, which sets the boundaries used for setback measurement and contains all information required in the Denton Development Code 35.22.

    For operators, to begin the Gas Well Development Plat process, login to eTrakit, under “Projects” select “Apply.” After completing, you will receive an email from ProjectDox inviting you to upload your documents. Complete the Gas Well Development Plat Application (ETJ) and upload to ProjectDox along with your drawings and other supporting documents as described in the Gas Well Development Plat Checklist (ETJ).
     

Ongoing Inspection Program
The City performs regular inspections on wells within the City limits to ensure compliance with the City’s Gas Well Ordinance (2015-033), Municipal Code, and Fire Code. The City also responds to questions, concerns, or complaints about a natural gas well that are reported.

Inspection reports can be viewed by site under the Gas Well Locator Map. The ability to view reports was recently added in January 2018, so the number of reports available through the map will increase over time as more well are inspected. 

The City also has contracted with a specialized firm to perform additional gas well inspections within the city limits with the frequency of inspections based upon priority levels by proximity of the well to sensitive use (a protected use or habitable structure). These inspections are completed using a variety of sophisticated monitoring devices. Additional details concerning this monitoring program are included in the “Contractor inspection program” below. 

  • Semi-Annual Inspections
    The City of Denton Gas Well Inspections Division inspects gas well sites both regularly and on reported issues. City staff conducts inspections on every well at least two times a year for all sites within the City limits and ETJ. These semi-annual inspections are primarily checking for code compliance (signs, equipment, fencing, trash, lighting, landscape, pipeline marking, erosion control, etc.) and to check for some leak detection or other environmental concerns. If any concerns or violations of state or federal law are suspected, the City inspector reports and works with the appropriate regulating authority. Within the ETJ, these inspections are limited to inspecting only to ensure that the number of wells drilled does not exceed what was platted and to ensure required signage is in place.
  • Contractor Inspection Program
    The City performs additional inspections by contracting with a specialized firm. The contracted firm conducts additional inspections for gas wells within the city limits with the frequency of inspections based upon priority levels by proximity of the well to sensitive use (a protected use or habitable structure). Under the current agreement, high priority sites are inspected twice per year, moderate priority sites are once per year, and low priority sites one time every two years. Instruments such as optical gas imaging systems, radiation meter, methane meter, hydrogen sulfide meter, photoionization detector, noise meter, and others may be used to identify leaks and potential environmental concerns.
  • Annual Fire Inspections
    In addition to the above inspections, the Denton Fire Department conducts their own annual inspections to ensure compliance with the Fire Code. These annual inspections are checking for items such as for proper address posting, road access for emergency vehicles, fencing with a secured entrance gate, proper signage, system equipment required by Code including lightning protection system, remote foam line, and so forth. 

    Operators are required to provide a Hazardous Materials Management Plan and an Emergency Response Plan to the Fire Marshal. Any updates or changes to the filed plan must be provided within three business days of the change.
     

Notice of Activities
Operators are required to report Notice of Activities to the City for inspection. Activities that require reporting to the City are Site Preparation, Drilling, Completion, Rework/Workover, Setting Surface Casing, and General Maintenance.
 
The Notices of Activities are posted here through the Notification of Gas Well Activity on this page. Notices can be sorted by project number, operator, or notice type, as well as viewed on a map by activity.

More information

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can someone else own the minerals underneath my property? How can I tell if I own my minerals?
    Yes. It is possible that the mineral ownership may be different than surface ownership. A deed/title search may be necessary for one to determine who actually owns the minerals under a piece of property.
  • Does the City offer assistance or advice to property owners regarding mineral leases?
    The City does not provide advice about leasing private property for gas exploration and drilling. Information provided by the City addresses general issues related to gas drilling and is not intended to provide advice on specific legal matters. To report any complaints related to the actions of a landman, you may contact the American Association of Professional Landmen, 4200 Fossil Creek Blvd., Fort Worth, TX 76137, at (817) 847-7700.
  • How can I find out if a natural gas well permit has been obtained near my property?
    If a gas well operator is applying to site a new location for the drilling and production of natural gas, they are required to notify the public living within 1,000 feet of the site at least 20 days prior to filing the Gas Well Development Site Plan application.

    Additional requirements for publishing in the newspaper and putting up signage are summarized in the Gas Well Notification Requirements document.
     
  • How can I register a complaint or contact an inspector?
    Please contact the Gas Well Inspections Division at (940) 349-8369 or GasWells@cityofdenton.com for general inquiries and concerns. After-hours calls should be directed to the non-emergency Police desk at (940) 349-8181.
  • How is gas well drilling and production regulated in Texas?
    In May 2015, the state approved House Bill 40 providing the state with exclusive jurisdiction over gas well drilling and production activities, expressly pre-empting municipalities from regulating such activities, except for a few certain aspects of aboveground activity. The State provided limited regulation to local governments to regulate aboveground activity related to an oil and gas operation or that which occurs at or above the surface of the ground, including fire and emergency response, traffic, lights, noise, notice, reasonable setback requirements, and other aboveground activities, such as inspecting for air and water emissions; however, any irregularities in emissions are reported to the appropriate agency.

    In addition, under HB 40, local government regulations must meet all of the following four factors: 1) are limited to regulating aboveground activity related to an oil and gas operation (as noted above), 2) must be commercially reasonable, 3) do not effectively prohibit an oil and gas operation conducted by a reasonably prudent operator; and 4) are not otherwise preempted by state or federal law.
    The two main state agencies regulating gas well production and drilling are:
    • The Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC) for regulating almost all aspects of oil and gas development in Texas, including processes from well drilling to well plugging. The RRC maintains records of operating companies as well as their mineral leases, wells, and production levels. Regional offices for the RRC conduct periodic inspections of well sites and can issues violations for improper equipment operation. 
    • The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the governmental agency tasked with monitoring and permitting oil- and gas-drilling operations emissions. The TCEQ developed an interactive map to show the location and results of air sampling and also created a site with updates about the Barnett Shale area and related news items. 
  • How is natural gas transported?
    Natural gas is transported via buried gas lines located in and around the Metroplex. Most of these lines have been in existence for 30 years. These lines are inspected, are pressure tested on an annual basis, and are buried below the ground level a federally mandated minimum of 3 feet. These lines are all clearly marked with pipe markers that are normally bright yellow markings with the company name and emergency phone numbers. 

    For more information regarding federal pipeline regulations, visit the U.S. Government Printing Office to view Title 49, Subtitle B, Chapter I, Subchapter D--Pipeline Safety.
     
  • How long is the gas well active or producing?
    Current estimations project that some wells may produce for 20 to 30 years, depending on the quality of formation. The production capability of older wells may reduce this lifespan and new technology may help to increase the duration of production for newer wells.
  • How many wells are located in Denton?
    There are currently 293 wells within Denton’s corporate city limits (COD) and 203 wells within the Division I area of its Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ). 

    More information about gas well site locations can be found under the Gas Well Locator on this page.
  • Oil and Gas Drilling Disclaimer
    The City does not provide advice about leasing private property for gas exploration and drilling. Information provided by the City addresses general issues related to gas drilling and mineral leases and is not intended to provide advice on any specific legal matter or factual situation. This information is not intended to create and its receipt does not constitute a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel. Gas companies offering leases for gas exploration and drilling for privately owned minerals, including those with the words “City of Denton" as part of their name or logo, are not associated with or endorsed by the City of Denton.
  • What can I expect when a company is going perform activities in my area?
    An operator must provide written notice to all dwellings within 1,000 feet of the boundary site not more than 30 days or less than 10 days from the start of activities, including drilling, completion or re-completion, P&A, any other activity that requires removal of the wellhead, or seismic exploration not involving explosive charges.

    A sign must be posted at the entrance of the site giving the public notice. More details can be found in the Gas Well Notification Requirements document.

    Electronic notice to the City is also required and is posted and found through the Gas Well Locator on this page. 
     
  • What can I expect when a company is going to drill in my area?
    A 300-foot-by-300-foot pad generally will be prepared and a drilling rig will move onto the location. The drilling rig will be on site for approximately 20 to 30 days per gas well actually “drilling” the well and running pipe into the open hole; pad sites may contain multiple gas wells. After the well is drilled, the drilling rig will move off the site. The rig move and drilling is a 24-hour operation and the noisiest part of the operation. Shortly thereafter, well “completion” will begin and a smaller portable rig will move onto the location. After completion operations, surface equipment will be installed along with appropriate fencing and gates. From this point there will be minimal activity on the location. Occasionally a small rig will be brought to the location for remedial work.
  • What emergency plans are in place in case of an accident?
    The Fire Department requires operators to provide a Hazardous Materials Management Plan and an Emergency Response Plan to the Fire Marshal. Any updates or changes to the filed plan must be provided within three business days of the change.

    Public safety officials respond to gas well emergencies using an all-hazards approach and collaborate with other agencies to train and prepare for such emergencies. 

    On Dec. 12, 2015, the City of Denton hosted a seminar on how gas well emergencies are effectively managed with the Denton Independent School District (DISD) and provided an opportunity for the public to ask questions. View the video
     
  • What happens to the well after production?
    In accordance with the Denton Development Code Section 35.22.5.A.6 (k-l):

    All wells shall be plugged and abandoned in accordance with the rules of the RRC; however, all well casings shall be cut and removed to a depth of at least ten (10) feet below the surface unless the surface owner submits a written agreement otherwise. Three (3) feet shall be the minimum depth.
     
  • What is a Blow Out and what is a Blow Out Preventer (BOP)?
    A sudden, violent escape of gas and oil (and sometimes water) from a drilling well when high pressure gas is encountered and efforts to prevent or to control the escape has not been successful.

    A Blow Out Preventer (BOP) is a device attached immediately above the casing to control the pressure and prevent escape of fluids from the annular space between the drill pipe and casing or shut off the hole if no drill pipe is in the hole, should a kick or blowout occur. These devices are pressure tested between 3,500-5,000psi when installed and every two weeks afterwards. They also have remote control valves to operate from a safe distance if needed.
     
  • What is a mineral lease?
    A mineral lease is a contractual agreement between two entities, the owner of a mineral estate and another party, usually an oil and gas company. The lease gives the oil and gas company or individual the right to explore for and develop the minerals that might be found underneath an area described in the lease. When property owners (the lessor) sign a lease, they essentially become a partner with the company (the lessee).
  • What is fracturing or completing with hydraulic horsepower?
    Fracturing is a means of opening the Barnett Shale formation up by the use of hydraulic horse power and fresh water. The fresh water stored in frac pits is typically pumped in stages into the Barnett Shale formation. Once the fracture (opening of rock) has been created by this force then sand is mixed with the fresh water and other ingredients and pumped into these fractures to help prevent the fracture from closing back once the hydraulic force is reduced. By packing or filling of these fractures with sand, this will allow the natural formation to produce into the new drilled well bore (hole) and bring gas to surface.
  • What is seismic exploration, and what will I notice when it is performed?
    Seismic exploration is the search for deposits of crude oil, natural gas, and minerals. It consists of a seismic data set measured and recorded with reference to a particular area of the Earth's surface, to evaluate the subsurface. During the process, artificial seismic energy is generated on land and transmitted via seismic wave energy into the subsurface rock layers. Seismic waves reflect and refract off subsurface rock formations and travel back to acoustic receivers called geophones (on land) or hydrophones (in water). The travel times of the returned energy, aid in estimating the structure and stratigraphy of subsurface formations.
  • What is the Barnett Shale?
    The Barnett Shale is a large natural gas reserve encompassing more than 5,000 square miles and including portions of at least 18 counties in North Texas. Many experts believe the Barnett Shale may be the largest onshore natural gas field in the United States, estimated to contain more than 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In recent years, advances in drilling technology have made it possible for energy companies to extract large amounts of natural gas from the Barnett Shale. 
  • What role does the City of Denton have in gas well permitting and regulation?
    The City of Denton’s first Gas Well Ordinance was adopted on Dec. 4, 2001, as part of the zoning code and subdivision and land development code. Since its adoption, the City as amended its Gas Well Ordinance from time to time to address land-use compatibility concerns for gas well drilling and production activities. The ordinance includes provisions addressing safety, noise levels, setbacks, lighting, traffic, dust, other nuisances, and so forth.

    After extensive analysis and review, public hearings and careful consideration, the City Council adopted the current Gas Well Ordinance (2015-233) on Aug. 4, 2015, to reconcile the local ordinance with state law following the passage of House Bill 40 in May 2015.

    The City performs regular inspections on wells within the City limits to ensure compliance with the City’s Gas Well Ordinance (2015-033), Municipal Code, and Fire Code. The City also responds to questions, concerns, or complaints about a natural gas well that are reported.
     
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