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One Fire Out, Another Contained in Western Colorado

As the Pine Ridge fire along the Western Slope in Colorado was put out last Thursday and more than 100 natural gas wells in the Piceance Basin brought back online, the short-lived Third Water Spring Fire northwest of De Beque, CO, led Encana Corp. to shut in more of gas wells last week. A number of gas wells were to remain shut in through the weekend.

Encana still had a some production shut in (1.2 MMcf/d) from the Pine Ridge wildfire, and to that it was adding 11 additional well closures near the Third Water Spring fire, according to an Encana spokesperson. The additional shut-ins equated to about 7 MMcf/d. In addition, a compressor station was closed in Roan Creek, said the spokesperson, who added that the shut-ins were likely to continue through Sunday.

Separately last Friday, a Black Hills Corp. spokesperson for the exploration and production unit said the company was still working to bring back online all of the 98 gas wells that had been shut in due to the Pine Ridge fire. "The BLM [Bureau of Land Management] has given all operators the approval to flow all wells," she said.

Reports in Grand Junction, CO, indicated that the Third Water Spring fire, like the one in Pine Ridge (see Daily GPI, July 5), was started by lightning and had consumed about 150 acres as of Friday. The Pine Ridge blaze consumed nearly 14,000 acres before being contained on Wednesday. There also was a 30% chance of rain on Friday.

David Ludlam, the head of the Western Slope branch of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), confirmed on Friday that the Pine Ridge blaze was 100% contained. He lauded the energy operators' work in the design and operation of their well sites for avoiding any major problems in the gas fields threatened by the fire that began in June. By midday Friday the new fire was "basically contained" and there were no "noteworthy threats," he said.

"The planning and investments our companies made in technology and fire training paid off in a big way," Ludlam said.

COGA has emphasized that oil and gas operators nowadays are required to have detailed emergency response plans in place, including how to respond to wildfires, and each well pad is designed to avoid major damage from fires, building in multi-acre cleared areas (see NGI, July 2). The Piceance wells and related gathering system equipment and pipelines are all controlled electronically with solar-powered remote telemetry, and the computers can be shut off remotely at any time, according to Ludlam.

In the Pine Ridge fire, the majority of the wells were shut in remotely to protect personnel from exposure to the fire. At the end of last week no estimate had been issued on how much production had been impacted by the fires, Ludlam noted.

Flames had come within five miles of the well pads, prompting operations to be shut by Encana, Black Hills and a joint venture of the two, Maralex Resources Inc. "The operators knew what to do and did it even before BLM asked them to shut down," Ludlam had said.

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