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Colorado Oil/Gas Operators Learn from 2013 Floods

Colorado oil and natural gas operators in the Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin that were hit hard by floods last year learned a lot from the four-week experience, and the Colorado Oil/Gas Association (COGA) will be publishing a report documenting the best management practices (BMP) developed.

COGA CEO Tisha Schuller said a detailed BMP manual should be completed by the end of March. She gave an overview of the industry's experience in the floods at a special workshop hosted Thursday by the Colorado Oil/Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) (see Shale Daily, Feb. 4).

An operator group in the DJ Basin flood plain worked together to identify and articulate BMPs related to well sites, pads, wellheads, tanks, equipment and flow lines and procedures, Schuller told COGCC officials.

Of the approximately 20,000 wells in the flood basin, 1,900 had to be shut in last September during some of the worst flooding ever recorded in the area (see Shale Daily, Sept. 20, 2013). There were 13 total oil release incidents, collectively resulting in 43,134 gallons of spilled oil, and another 17 incidents involving 26,385 gallons of produced water.

Schuller said general interest news media in the state mischaracterized the extent and seriousness of the well site spills. She emphasized that the floods caused far greater problems with spills of 220 million gallons of raw and partially treated sewage.

Colorado's Department of Public Health and the Environment tested 29 oil/gas sites and found no contaminants, according to Schuller. In contrast, E-coli was identified at levels above state standards in 14 samples.

After evacuating sites and shutting in wells, oil/gas operators shut in upstream and midstream facilities, operated through emergency command centers, and eventually deployed more than 1,000 workers in teams to inspect sites and report to local governments, emergency responders and the COGCC, Schuller said.

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