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Colorado Flood Recovery Looks Like Long Road

Weekend reports from state and industry sources in Colorado indicated that while the bulk of the oil and natural gas impact from recent devastating floods is concentrated in four counties in the Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin, completing assessments and correcting problems will be a long process (see Daily GPISept. 20Sept. 19).

On Friday, Gov. John Hickenlooper called the start of a recovery "an epic rebuilding effort," noting that the first deadline is to get as much done as possible by Dec. 1 and the onset of winter.

Over the weekend, more precise data was provided on oil spills, and on Sunday the estimated total from reportable incidents was roughly 27,000 gallons, or the equivalent of two 320-bbl oil storage tanks, according to the Colorado Oil/Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), one of two state, two federal and one county (Weld) agencies monitoring cleanup work.

On Monday, COGCC said there were still about 1,300 shut-in wells. The state agency was tracking eight "notable" releases, along with an additional 10 locations "with some evidence of release of oil," and another 33 well site locations where there were damaged tanks or other equipment, but no apparent releases.

Encana Corp., which operates more than 1,200 wells in the DJ Basin, reported an additional 56 of its shut-in wells had been brought back to service over the weekend, leaving 77 wells still shut in, a Denver-based spokesperson told NGI on Monday. As of early Monday, "no reportable hydrocarbon spills were found," the spokesperson said. At their peak, Encana had 397 wells shut in early last week due to the flood's impact.

Continued monitoring is headed by the COGCC, and reports of minor incidents continued to be made to the state oil/gas agency during the weekend, which saw hundreds of industry field workers inspecting and repairing affected oil/gas sites. On Saturday, the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) reported roughly 35% of the impacted area had been assessed.

"Some areas still have high waters making access slow and difficult," said a COGA spokesperson. On Sunday, COGA reported that the flood's oil/gas industry impact was confined to the DJ Basin, and that an estimated 1,500 wells were still shut in.

"We are receiving continual responses from operators of all sizes who are making 24/7 inspections and immediately addressing any impacts or damage," COGA said Sunday. "To date, there are still no known fracking [hydraulic fracturing] operations that were being conducted in the flooded areas."

On Saturday, COGA said that Noble Energy, which has established a $500,000 challenge grant to the American Red Cross to aid people displaced by the massive flooding, reported releases of produced condensate and water originated from a steel tank toppled on its side in Weld County. The company's efforts to deploy booms and absorb the fluids, along with making necessary repairs, were ongoing, COGA said.

Noble reported 54 barrels of produced oil and 20 barrels of produced water being released from another steel tank within a production facility last Friday, and the following day 36 barrels of oil and three barrels of produced water were released from another tank. All were in Weld County, according to COGA. 

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