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CIG Fort Morgan Storage Field Springs Leak; 12 Residences Evacuated

Colorado Interstate Gas (CIG) personnel have secured a leaking well at the 8.5 Bcf Fort Morgan storage field in Morgan County, CO, parent firm El Paso Corp. said late Monday. However, gas from the storage facility, which is a depleted oil and gas field, continues to migrate to the surface at "various locations," and storage operations have been shut down indefinitely, the company said.

As a result of the leak, CIG evacuated 12 families and will pay hotel expenses until the cause can be determined and the situation remedied. CIG also has asked residents in the surrounding area, which is mainly a farming community, not to drink their well water. "Residents within a one-mile radius of the location have also been asked not to drink from any domestic water sources," the pipeline said, adding that the local sheriff's department is at the site and blocking roads to keep the area secured.

The leak was discovered on Sunday after a resident saw water coming to the surface. The storage field as of Oct. 13 was 85% full with 7.23 Bcf of working gas in storage. It also holds about 6.4 Bcf of base gas. Company officials would not say whether storage levels were at a record high at the time the leak was discovered.

Multiple storage fields nationwide are approaching all-time highs this month primarily because of a warm January, which left a significant amount of gas in storage prior to the start of the injection season. It is unclear at this point whether situations similar to what has happened at Fort Morgan can be expected at other storage fields because of high working gas levels.

The leaking Fort Morgan storage well, which is used for injection and withdrawal, was plugged, but natural gas has continued to migrate to the surface. "Normal work in the area has been suspended to prevent any possible ignition, and the area has been cordoned off by emergency response personnel," the pipeline said. "The company is monitoring the well and the storage field, and a repair program is getting under way." The well is among 34 injection/withdrawal wells at the facility, which began storage service in 1966.

An El Paso spokesman said Tuesday that because pressure has dropped, gas is not coming to the surface as rapidly as it was on Monday. "We're still investigating where we have gas emanating up to the surface," he said. "This is not a salt cavern. It's a depleted oil and gas reservoir, so for that reason we have to ensure that we have a good grasp of the migration of natural gas in the subsurface and the interaction of any gas with the water that's in the subsurface and how those factors may affect the dwellings in and around the CIG Fort Morgan compressor station." The compressor station provides 3,200 horsepower of compression to the field.

The company was optimistic that the situation could be remedied quickly and the storage field could resume normal operations. However, the spokesman said it was too early to predict when repairs would be made. Fort Morgan can provide about 450 MMcf/d of gas deliverability. It's injection capacity is 150 MMcf/d.

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