State tracking 10 oil releases in Colorado flood waters

By Real Aspen
Real AspenSeptember 20, 2013
State oil and gas regulators are now “tracking 10 oil releases” in flood waters from last week’s deluge that swept across Colorado’s Front Range. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) issued a press release about the new spills on Thursday in the wake of the first official report of a spill on Wednesday.

“As of noon [Wednesday], the COGCC is tracking 10 oil releases,” according to the press release from Todd Hartman of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “Two of those are notable; the remaining eight appear to be minor. Minor spills in the context of this situation would be considered spills described as sheens coming off of a piece of equipment rather than a measurable volume of petroleum product.”

Here’s the rest of Hartman’s statement:

A flooded well near the Cache la Poudre River.
Therese Gilbert/Weld Air and Water

“We reported one of those notable releases to you [Wednesday] night: 125 barrels from an Anadarko storage tank south of Milliken. Another Anadarko storage tank has released 323 barrels (13,566 gallons). That event occurred north of Firestone on the St. Vrain River. In both cases, it appears the oil left the site in floodwaters. Though Anadarko deployed absorbent booms in the first case, the booms collected residual oil in standing water pooled around the tanks (not water feeding into the river). In both cases, the releases were promptly reported by the operator.

“In the context of this historic event, these spills are not an unexpected part of many other sources of contamination associated with the flood. Those include very large volumes (millions of gallons) of raw, municipal sewage and other hazards associated with households, agriculture, business and industry.

“A typical oil storage tank holds 300 barrels, though some tanks are larger. These two releases, then, involved approximately one and one-half tanks. In this dynamic stage, as we continue to assess the situation in the field and gather information from operators and others, we are at times dependent on characterizations from third parties.”

Hartman also described the extent of state mitigation efforts:

“Five teams of inspectors and environmental protection specialists were in the field on Wednesday, Sept. 18. The teams were canvassing flood impacted areas in the vicinity of Coal Creek, Boulder Creek, St. Vrain, Big Thompson, and the South Platte. [Thursday], six teams are back the field, and one COGCC staff member will be in the air with the Weld County Sheriff’s Department.”

Anadarko, one of the largest oil and gas producers in Weld County – where there are more than 20,000 active wells – issued this statement on Thursday:

“In the wake of the catastrophic flooding that impacted much of northeast Colorado, damaging homes, businesses and schools, as well as oil and gas operations, we continue to keep safety and protecting the environment as our highest priority. As the flood waters recede, we are beginning to gain access to more of our operations for on-site inspections, while also continuing aerial monitoring via helicopter. As mentioned in previous updates, preliminary assessments indicate the vast majority of our facilities are intact and performed as designed during this extreme weather event.

“We have reported two tank batteries that were damaged by flood waters and have associated light-oil releases. The releases occurred in flood waters associated with the South Platte River and the St. Vrain River, and we are working with the appropriate state and federal agencies to clean up the releases to the greatest extent possible. More information regarding the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission’s (COGCC) flood response is available at: http://cogcc.state.co.us/.

“We have approximately 20 people working in our Emergency Operations Center in Denver and approximately 150 people working in the field to assist with response, containment and remediation, as well as contract employees assisting in the effort.

“We can confirm that during this flood event there were no impacts to the environment due to our drilling or hydraulic fracturing activities. More than 600 of our operated wells remain shut in (out of a total of approximately 5,800 operated wells in the field). As mentioned [Wednesday], gathering compression and processing are on line, and we are continuing to assess the integrity of a very small portion (less than half-a-percent) of our gathering lines.”


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