Natural gas and oil operators on Thursday made headway in digging out from nearly a week of torrential rains and flash flooding that has claimed lives and property throughout the Front Range of Colorado. Two oil spills related to Anadarko Petroleum Corp.’s operations were getting the major attention of industry and state officials as they continued to make post-storm assessments of the impact of historic flooding.
According to reports that Anadarko made to the Colorado Oil/Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and reported by the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA), 125 barrels (5,250 gallons) of light-oil releases occurred Wednesday, spilling into parts of the South Platte and St. Vrain Rivers.
COGCC and Anadarko emphasized that the spills were being “remediated” but offered no details on what was being done to clean up and stop any additional spillage.
In its public response Wednesday, COGCC said it understood “public concerns about [fracking] chemicals” but said generally those chemicals are only on site during drilling and fracturing operations. “They do not remain on site once the well is in production,” said COGCC, adding that “the vast majority of wells impacted were in the producing stage.
“Operators in the flood-affected areas were aggressive about shutting in wells — stopping the production of oil and gas — before the flooding began or very early in the event. The majority of the well sites are on automated systems that allow operators to remotely shut in the wells,” COGCC said.
COGA stressed basic facts on fracking fluids, noting in its report Thursday that “there was no release of chemicals or fracturing fluid additives…these chemicals are not stored at production facilities.” COGA said major operators in the area reported at the beginning of this week that 1,976 wells were shut in. “Today (Thursday) that number has dipped to 1,679, and 297 wells are back in production.”
Encana Corp., which operates more than 1,200 wells in the Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin, reported an additional 65 of its shut-in wells had been brought back to service as of Thursday morning, leaving 180 wells still shut in, a Denver-based spokesperson told NGI. “As of last night, no reportable hydrocarbon spills were found,” the spokesperson said.
Noting that the vast majority of the wells are natural gas although some are oil, Encana’s spokesperson said that a six-person environmental assessment team will complete inspections of all of the company’s facilities in the Niobrara Formation portion of the DJ Basin by the end of the day Thursday.
While most of these Encana assets are gas related, an unknown number are horizontally drilled oil wells, the spokesperson said.
Like Encana, Anadarko has had a number of wells impacted by the record flooding. Of the company’s roughly 5,800 operated wells in the area, approximately 1,000 wells were shut in at one point, and 650 wells were still out of service as of the start of the day Thursday.
Anadarko on Wednesday reported the spillage into the Platte and St. Vrain Rivers to COGCC, the National Response Center [for oil spills], the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“We are actively working under the oversight of these agencies to contain and clean up the releases to the greatest extent possible,” an Anadarko said in a website-based status report on the Colorado flooding. Anadarko operates about 5,800 wells and 20 miles of pipeline in the impacted area.
On Thursday, the operators continued to have no estimates on the volumes of gas impacted by the continuing shut ins, but earlier, third-party estimates placed the curtailed volumes at 600-800 MMcf as of last Tuesday.
Minnesota-based Xcel Energy’s local combination utility crews continued to monitor lines, assess their status, repair damaged facilities and maintain natural gas and electric service to customers, a Denver-based utility spokesperson told NGI.
Xcel reported that as of Wednesday morning close to 4,460 customers, mostly in the hardest hit areas of Boulder County and Lyons, were without natural gas. Its crews had gained access to most of the communities impacted by the historic flooding. The combination utility said its natural gas system was hit harder than the electric grid.
“The restoration process for our natural gas system is complex and will take a significant amount of time to complete,” the Xcel spokesperson said. “In some areas, we will be making temporary repairs to restore service, and permanent repairs will be finished next year.”
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