Colorado energy regulators plan to consider more than three dozen recommendations to improve well integrity at the state’s 60,000-plus oil and gas wells, including improved cementing practices and regular monitoring of well pressures.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) released the findings of its well integrity and safety policies undertaken by the nonpartisan State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange (SOGRE).
The exchange was tasked by former Gov. John Hickenlooper with reviewing Colorado’s safety standards following the deadly home explosion in 2017 in Firestone, which killed two men and injured two others. The explosion was found to have been caused by a flowline failure. Also in 2017 a well integrity failure in Hudson led to the spill of thousands of gallons of oil and produced water.
The COGCC also was required to update well integrity safety rules under state Senate Bill 181, which was passed in the wake of the Firestone tragedy.
The SOGRE was also tasked with conducting a peer assessment to obtain the perspective of other state oil and gas regulators on Colorado’s regulatory regime. The review specifically focused on insights into best practices and leading edge thought among state oil and gas regulators from around the country.
“The COGCC requested that the review team identify any perceived regulatory gaps or inefficiencies, insights into other states’ approaches to regulating the same or similar topics and suggested modifications to existing or addition of new rules,” the report noted.
Colorado regulations reviewed by the SOGRE covered wellbore integrity, idle wells, natural gas storage and venting/flaring.
“In the course of its deliberations, the review committee consulted a crosswalk” prepared by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), which analyzed how Colorado’s rules and policies related to the national Ground Water Protection Council’s well integrity regulatory elements issued in 2016.
The SOGRE made 45 recommendations following its review, and COGCC said there was merit in 40.
In response to the report, EDF senior attorney Adam Peltz said, “Too many of Colorado’s oil and gas wells are an accident waiting to happen, and the COGCC deserves credit for taking a comprehensive look at well safety.
“This report is a clear blueprint for state action to protect the safety of those working in the energy industry and Colorado families as well as Colorado’s air and water quality. With these solutions in hand, the COGCC should launch a well integrity rulemaking as soon as possible this year to ensure the state remains a leader in responsible energy production.”