Colorado flooding causes oil spills and gas leaks

flooding

BIZMOLOGY — The recent floods in Colorado destroyed thousands of homes and killed several people.

It also had a major impact on oil and gas drillers in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, one of the most intensively drilled areas in the US (with 20,500 active wells in Weld County, more than 320 in Boulder County, and more than 250 in Larimer County). According to Mark Jaffe of The Denver Post, more than 17,000 acres in the Denver-Julesburg Basin were inundated by the Colorado floods, swamping wells and toppling oil storage tanks, leaving a number of oil spills and gas leaks across the area.

As of September 23, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission listed 11 oil spills, and its aerial survey of the affected area found two dozen tanks overturned. By last Saturday state inspectors had assessed 35% of the affected area; the commission is still compiling data on flood impacts.

The commission was tracking eight “notable releases” and 10 additional locations with small releases. It had tallied 33 sites with damaged tanks or equipment but had no indication of leaks.

It documented 27,000 gallons of spills. Of the 1,900 wells that were shut in during the peak of the flooding, 600 were back in operation by September 23.

Noble Energy (the largest operator in the basin, with 8,000 operating wells) reported three leaking gas wells.

Anadarko Petroleum (the second-largest operator, with 6,000 wells) reported seven releases from damaged tank batteries. It had closed 250 tank facilities, or about 10% of its total operations in the region.

The third-largest operator in the basin, PDC Energy (with 2,400 wells), reported that all of its production equipment at one site was washed away by the floods.

While the operators claim that everything is under control (most of the active wells were shut in prior to the flooding), some in the public are expressing concern about the potential leaks of chemicals and toxic wastewater from well sites contaminating streams, rivers, reservoirs, and other bodies of surface water.

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Picture by Thomas Good used under a Creative Commons license.
Stuart Hampton

British editorial veteran Stuart Hampton has been covering oil and gas companies for Hoover's since the Neogene-Quaternary period. Well, actually, since the early 1990s. For the best overview of the oil industry and its history he recommends Daniel Yergin's "The Prize." You can also follow Stuart on Twitter.

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