Application to Drill Permitting Process

The Oil and Gas Program often receives inquiries regarding how long it takes to process an application to drill permit (APD). Program staff strives to approve applications within 60 days, but there are many steps in the process that need to be completed before approval.

Once an operator submits a request, several staff members with specific expertise are involved in the review process. This system is necessary to ensure the environment and residents are protected, while allowing responsible development and conservation of oil and gas resources that benefits the citizens of Utah.

Technical Review

The purpose of the technical review is to evaluate relevant local and regional information that may be beneficial in assessing the location of a proposed drilling project and identifying any associated potential impacts.

Issues in the technical review include geologic assessment, cultural resources, soil assessment, regional precipitation, existing infrastructure, potential impacts to wildlife and habitat, previous area development, local/county ordinances, and well spacing requirements.

The geology/groundwater section of the permit is completed by a geologist who reviews the application for protection of water resources and other geology related issues. Items include the existence or absence of underground sources of drinking water and how it will be protected by the proposed casing program, location of any known water wells or nearby springs, and other mineral resources.

The Division’s petroleum engineer reviews the APD for well construction and safety standards consistent with industry standards and Division rules. This includes evaluating the drilling plan, casing and cementing design and blow out prevention pressure control systems to ensure the well is constructed properly to allow drilling to the depths proposed safely while isolating and protecting any oil, gas or water resources from migrating from one horizon to another.

Resources used in the evaluation include the Division’s database, Google Earth, ArcGIS, Utah Division of Water Resources data and mapping resources, Utah Geologic Survey data and mapping resources, Division of Wildlife Sage Grouse Management Area Map, USDA Web Soils Survey, along with well data and technical publications from the Utah Division of Water Rights.


Staff check for adequate bonding to make certain the state is protected by ensuring sufficient monies are available for reclamation in the event an operator abandons a well. Once adequate bonding is verified, the well is attached to the bond record.

Pre-Site Evaluation

The purpose of the pre-site evaluation is to provide coordination between interested parties early in the permitting process allowing the opportunity for the operator, surface owner, and Division representatives to look at and evaluate a site. 

At this point in the process the location has been surveyed and the proposed well locations and other features of the pad have been staked so that all parties can see the “footprint” of the project. Division field staff look at the proposed location and evaluate the planned drill pad for environmental and health risks including proximity to domestic or municipal water wells, surface waters, soil permeability, and natural drainages that could transport spilled fluids. Various mitigation techniques such as rerouting drainages, constructing containment berms,or requiring closed-loop drilling methods may then be stipulated. The pre-drilling land characteristics of the site are also noted which will help in the site reclamation when the well is plugged.  


After all of the required steps are completed, the application is sent to the permit manager for final review and approval. If all permit requirements are in order, the permit is approved.

2018 Permits

Last year, 290 APDs were approved. While not all approved APDs will result in a well being drilled as operators’ priorities shift due to economic and other constraints, the number of approved APDs can provide an indication of what the oil and gas industry is projecting for future production, which has a direct impact on Utah’s economy and funding for the Oil and Gas Program.