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Global Traditional Energy Resources

Illinois map indicating areas of recoverable oil and gas


Illinois contains the largely untapped New Albany Shale, an approximately 60,000-square-mile shale formation located partially in Southeastern Illinois within the Illinois Basin.[1] The U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated that the New Albany Shale contains approximately 11 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas and 189 million barrels of oil, but these estimates are outdated and are likely to be revised upward in the future.[2]

Statutory and Regulatory Framework

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) regulates the oil and gas industry and has primary authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing activities in the State, with the assistance of the Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois State Water Survey, State Fire Marshal, and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.[3]

In June 2013, Illinois adopted the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act, which applies to all high-volume hydraulic fracturing operations that use more than 80,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluid per stage or more than 300,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluid total on wells drilled at least 100 feet horizontally.[4] The Act requires baseline groundwater testing before drilling,[5] the use of tanks rather than pits for wastewater storage,[6] and chemical disclosure reports both before and subsequent to the performance of fracturing activities.[7] The Illinois Oil and Gas Act also applies to hydraulic fracturing activities, supplying the requirements for, among other things, permitting, drilling, operating, and plugging and abandonment of wells in the State.[8]

In November 2014, Illinois adopted regulations implementing the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act.[9] At least one unsuccessful lawsuit was filed challenging the regulations, alleging that the DNR had failed to follow proper procedures under the State’s Administrative Procedure Act when it approved the regulations.[10]

Notably, the Illinois regulations implementing the Illinois Oil and Gas Act include provisions aimed at controlling instances of induced seismicity.[11] Specifically, these regulations apply to “all Class II UIC disposal wells that inject any Class II fluids or hydraulic fracturing flowback from a high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operation permitted by the [DNR] under the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act.”[12] The regulations generally implement a “traffic light” system, whereby the DNR notifies Class II UIC well permittees within a certain radius of the epicenter of seismic activity of an alert; as the magnitude of an earthquake increases, the radius within which Class II UIC well permittees are notified expands.[13] These notifications are generally referred to as “green light,” “yellow light,” and “red light” alerts, depending on the magnitude of earthquake.[14] Where a particular well has been suspected of having triggered induced seismicity, the regulations give the DNR the power to require the Class II UIC well permittee to perform seismic monitoring.[15] Moreover, the DNR may issue cessation orders under a variety of circumstances, including to all wells that receive a red light alert and are within 6 miles of the epicenter of the earthquake.[16] Wells that receive a cessation order must meet with the DNR and the Illinois State Geological Survey and provide well data for the last six months to facilitate a settlement agreement that includes induced seismicity mitigation measures.[17]

Recent News and Developments

Illinois’ First Fracking Permit

The DNR awarded the first permit for fracking in the Illinois Basin in August 2017.[18] In November 2017, however, the operator announced that it would not go forward with its drilling plans, citing regulatory compliance costs, a burdensome and time consuming permitting process, Illinois’ stringent fracking regulations, and low oil and gas prices in its decision.[19]

Truth-In-Fracking Bill

In April 2018, the Illinois Senate passed the Truth-In-Fracking Bill, aimed at providing the public with information regarding well locations and chemicals to be used in the fracking process, [20] primarily via a requirement that operators submit detailed well drilling and completion reports. The bill is intended to address concerns that some horizontal and directional well extensions are drilled too close to sources of drinking water.[21] The bill was referred to the Illinois House Rules Committee in May 2018.

Last updated October 2020.

[1] Dan Sharp, Four Bakken-like Plays Emerging Across the Nation’s Midsection, Bismarck Trib. (Sept. 11, 2014),

[2] Id.

[3] Illinois DNR:  Oil & Gas:  Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act, Illinois Dep’t of Nat. Res.,

[4] 225 Ill. Comp. Stat. 732/1-5.

[5] Id. at 732/1-80(b).

[6] Id. at 732/1-75(c)(1).

[7] Id. at 732/1-35(b)(8), 732/1-75(f)(9).

[8] See generally id. at 732/1-20,  725/1 et seq.

[9] Ill. Admin. Code tit. 62, pt. 245.

[10] Smith v. Dep’t of Nat. Res., 35 N.E.3d 1281 (Ill. App. Ct. 2015).

[11] See generally Ill. Admin. Code tit. 62, § 240.796.

[12] Id. at § 240.796(a).

[13] Id. at § 240.796(d).

[14] Id. at § 240.796(b).

[15] Id. at § 240.796(c)(3).

[16] Id. at § 240.796(e).

[17] Id. at § 240.796(g).

[18] Charlie Passut, Illinois Approves First Fracking Permit for Grassy Creek Shale, Nat. Gas Intelligence (Sept. 6, 2017),

[19] Tim Landis, Illinois’ First Fracking Permit Withdrawn, State J.-Reg. (ill.) (Nov. 3, 2017),

[20] Brad Palmer, Truth-In-Fracking Bill Passed by Illinois Senate, WSIU Pub. Broadcasting (May 4, 2018),

[21] Id.