Torrential rains and widespread flooding in Colorado that have resulted in loss of life and more than 1,000 people missing are also having a significant impact on natural gas utilities, exploration and production (E&P) companies and gas pipelines.

Colorado Interstate Gas (CIG), which carries Rocky Mountain and Anadarko Basin natural gas along a 4,300 mile route, on Monday declared a force majeure until further notice on its Colorado gas lateral pipeline because of flooding. The flooding exposed some facilities on the lateral leading to the Young Storage site, it stated in a website notice. A pipeline leading to the Tritown delivery point also was exposed, as well as at Bijou Creek.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., one of the biggest operators in Colorado’s Greater Wattenberg field, said Monday it has shuttered 600 wells in the play because of the flooding. Encana Corp., also a top operator, said as of Monday it had shut-in close to 400 wells in the Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin.

“The safety of our communities and protection of the environment are paramount to all our operations,” Anadarko stated. “The majority of our drilling, completions and workover activities in the affected areas of the field have been shut down, and restarting the activities is expected to be significantly delayed due to road and location conditions. We expect to provide more details once an assessment of our recovery time is available.

Anadarko is utilizing an emergency operations center manned by about 20 people in Denver and more than 150 people in the Greater Wattenberg area. “We expect to be able to better assess our facilities once the flooding begins to recede and road access improves. In the meantime, we continue to utilize air service to monitor the basin, and we have construction crews on standby and available to assist with any potential issues.”

Encana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc. spokesman Doug Hock told NGI on Monday that of the 1,241 wells the company operates in the DJ Basin, “397 are currently shut in.” The Longmont, CO office also was closed Monday.

“We have several employees whose homes have been impacted as well,” said Hock. “With regard to potential environmental impacts, we have plans in place to inspect all of our facilities and we’ve developed an environmental inspection checklist to assist with the assessment. We’re using GIS [geographic information systems] to help prioritize lower-lying facilities that may likely have greater impacts. We’re keeping the state regulators updated as we move forward with these inspections.”

PDC Energy Inc., which operates about 2,300 vertical and 80 horizontal wells in the Wattenberg, said it had temporarily suspended production as of last Friday from a “limited number of wells.” Production is to resume this week.

“As our first concern was for the safety of our employees in the field and to minimize any impact to the environment, we elected to shut-in production sites before they became inaccessible due to road closures and flood conditions,” said PDC CEO James Trimble. On Monday the company began “assessing impacts to individual well sites and expect a full assessment as the flood waters recede this week. We plan to access the well sites using alternate routes around impacted roads and bridges and anticipate the majority of the impacts to operations will be short-term…We know there are many families, including some of our employees, in Weld and surrounding counties who have been impacted by the flooding. We are supporting local flood relief efforts.”

Xcel Energy on Sunday reported new heavy rain storms in already flooded areas of Colorado, further hampering efforts to assess the condition of natural gas pipelines and equipment. On Sunday, the combination utility said there were approximately 4,070 customers without gas service, up from the 2,500 total last Friday (see Daily GPI, Sept. 16).

Based on aerial assessments that Xcel made Friday, the utility estimates it eventually will have to replace thousands of gas utility meters and 20 miles of distribution pipeline as a result of heavy rain storms that have engulfed the Front Range region for the past week.

“We are ensuring we have all the equipment and resources needed to start restoration work when waters have receded, roads are opened or rebuilt, and areas are declared safe for our crews to enter,” said a Denver-based Xcel spokesperson. “Once that occurs, we will inspect lines and equipment for damage. Sometimes this involves hand-digging to uncover lines that can be 15-20 feet below the surface.”

Once the rains stop and the area begins to dry out, the spokesperson said Xcel will inspect every piece of equipment that has been underwater or covered by mud and debris to determine if they can be used or, more likely, repaired or replaced.

“Before any service is safely restored, we must also ensure natural gas valves in homes and businesses are shut off before repressurizing lines,” the spokesperson said. “After that occurs, our crews go door-to-door to relight natural gas appliances.”

On Friday, Xcel reported that very few outages were the result of breakage of distribution pipelines. Instead, most of the outages were ordered by local fire officials or on the utility’s own initiative because of exposed parts of the system that were inaccessible to utility crews. However, on Sunday, the spokesperson said there was a ruptured gas pipeline at the intersection of two highways (257 and 60) in Milliken, CO, resulting in outages to hundreds of customers in the area.