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Colorado Readies Overhaul of Oil, NatGas Flowline Rules

Colorado regulators have outlined plans governing oversight of oil and natural gas flowlines, updated regulations which could be ready for final adoption later this year.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which posted the outline on Wednesday, expects to complete the draft rules by mid-October, with formal hearings scheduled in December.

The new standards would address design, installation, testing and regulatory oversight for flowlines, which carry oil or gas from well to tanks or other gathering equipment. The rule changes could remove current exemptions from pressure testing of low-pressure pipelines, according to the commission.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has led the rules overhaul following the tragic explosion five months ago at a residence in Firestone, which killed two men and critically wounded a woman who was married to one of the men.

Investigations determined unrefined natural gas leaked from a flowline that was thought to be out of service, but the line still was connected to a well with the valve turned to the open position. The well and pipeline were in place several years before the home that exploded was built. The flowline severed at the Firestone residence was about 10 feet from the house, and gas had seeped into the basement, investigators said.

The home was within 200 feet of the Anadarko Petroleum Corp. well, and following the tragedy, the exploration and production companies inspected vertical and horizontal wells to test the flowlines.

Meanwhile, Erie, CO’s Board of Trustees this week enacted an ordinance to require operators to map their pipelines. The Erie measure, approved by a 5-1 vote, tentatively is scheduled to take effect Oct. 31.

Hickenlooper and other state officials had considered requiring operators to compile maps of all flowlines, which would have been posted online for the public. However, the governor ruled out that consideration in August, citing concerns about security and theft of oil and gas.

The state instead has opted to require operators provide flowline information on Colorado’s existing Call 811 program, which marks the location of underground utilities at a property owner’s request.

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