As four lightning-ignited wildfires burned with varying intensity across parts of northwest Colorado Monday, oil and natural gas operators shut in parts of their operations as a precautionary step, federal and industry sources told NGI.
Red flag fire warnings remained in effect for the region Monday.
A number of natural gas production, gathering and distribution infrastructure systems are included in the fire area, said David Ludlam, executive director for the West Slope chapter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association. "As firefighters delineate the trajectory of the fires, producers will adjust their operations as necessary to ensure safe operations," Ludlam said.
For emergencies, most of the operators have systems that allow remote monitoring and shut down of wells when necessary, but Ludlam said they prefer "to send people out on location so long as doing so is safe and prudent." On Monday, producers were "simply acting to shut in production out of an abundance of caution."
The largest of the four wildfires -- the Hunter fire, 20 miles southwest of Meeker, CO -- had burned nearly 1,000 acres and was threatening some oil/gas infrastructure, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management spokesperson (BLM) reported late Sunday. More than 60 firefighters had the blaze 30% contained, the spokesperson said.
Three other fires racing across part of BLM-managed lands -- Dead Dog (40 acres), Temple (67 acres) and Cross Fire (55 acres) -- are smaller and in widely varying stages of containment from zero for the Dead Dog fire to fully contained for the Temple fire.
Ludlam said that most of the operating companies in the area develop emergency response plans before wells and facilities are permitted as part of standard procedures. "These plans include protocols for working with first responders in response to wildfires," he said. In the case of the current fires, "BLM, producers and midstream companies are all coordinating and communicating as trained."
A BLM spokesperson said operators affected include Terra Energy Partners LLC, Ursa Resources Group LLC and Encana Corp.
"About 10 pads all together within two miles of the fire are impacted, but I do not have an estimate of the number of wells as most are directionally drilled," the spokesperson said. The Enterprise Product Partners LP gas processing plant is within two miles of the Hunter fire, along with two compressor stations and associated underground gathering pipelines.