Last week, Colorado’s Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) went airborne to survey methane emissions at major oil and gas sites in the Denver-Julesburg Basin. 

DJ Basin Wells

This was the first of many flights scheduled for 2021, according to CDPHE. Aerial monitoring will continue over Boulder, Weld and Larimer counties, with more concentrated aerial surveys in September and October.

Data collected from airborne monitoring will “inform how we approach regulating oil and gas operations and other emitting sites in Colorado,” said CDPHE’s Shaun McGrath, director of Environmental Health and Protection.

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CDPHE is to work with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which will support the aerial work with ground monitoring and inspections to certify data and monitor smaller operations. CDPHE is also working with the University of Arizona, Colorado State University, the University of Colorado, the University of Maryland and a private Boulder-based company, Scientific Aviation. 

Additionally, the CDPHE would utilize enhanced satellite and remote sensing tools, along with a mobile monitoring van coming to the department in August to precisely monitor emissions, said CDPHE’s Garry Kaufman. 

Funding for the surveys comes from a settlement between the COGCC and Kerr McGee Oil & Gas Onshore LP, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum Corp., following a 2017 explosion that left two dead and two critically injured in Weld County.