State reports more than 22,000 gallons of oil spilled in Colorado flood zone

Oil and gas regulators tracking at least 'five notable releases'

By David O. Williams
Real AspenSeptember 21, 2013
State oil and gas regulators on Friday said they’re now tracking five “notable” oil releases as a result of widespread flooding in Weld County – up from two reported as of Thursday.

“Two additional releases of 56 barrels at an Anadarko location and 21 barrels at a Bayswater Exploration and Production location have also been confirmed,” Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) spokesman Todd Hartman said in a press release Friday afternoon. “Both of the latter two locations are along the South Platte River near Evans.”

The three new releases – only two of which cleanup crews have been able to quantify -- come on top of two Anadarko spills totaling nearly 19,000 gallons reported on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Those four releases represent about 22,000 gallons of oil,” Hartman said. “An additional release has been reported by Anadarko, but the volume is unknown at this time.”

Houston-based Anadarko issued a statement on its website on Friday that read in part: “We have reported a total of seven releases associated with our flood-damaged tank facilities to the relevant state and federal agencies, and at this time, it is estimated the maximum quantity of light oil associated with these releases is approximately 500 barrels. We continue to work under the direction of the regulatory agencies regarding clean up and remediation.”
A damaged storage tank in Evans.
Carl Erickson/Weld Air and Water
The COGCC also confirmed Friday that a production location operated by PDC Energy had its equipment mostly washed away by flooding, and regulators are “working with the operator to ascertain the amount of product that was on site before flooding began.”

Hartman said six teams of state inspectors were in the field Friday, with one devoted to responding to larger incidents, and that the COGCC is also continuing to conduct aerial surveys. The teams have now assessed approximately 30 percent of the impacted areas.

Aerial surveys on Thursday revealed as many as two dozen storage tanks overturned.

“Releases from these tanks have not been confirmed but are certainly a possibility,” Hartman said. “In addition, we are tracking 11 locations with visible evidence of a release, such as a sheen. No estimates of product losses are available for those sites.”

There are 20,554 active oil and gas wells in Weld County (more than a third of the statewide total), 10,444 in Garfield County -- where there was no significant flooding last week -- and 3,885 in Yuma County just to the east of Weld. The two flood-impacted counties of Weld and Yuma have the highest and third-highest number of active wells in the state.

Hartman says the COGCC is still compiling reports from operators on numerous impacted facilities, full investigations will take place when access allows, and operators will be required to remediate environmental impacts. The agency is also still compiling public reports on its website:

Minnesota-based Xcel Energy on Friday reported 3,206 customers across the flood zone were still without natural gas service due to damaged distribution lines.

“This is an unprecedented situation for Xcel Energy and for the state,” Xcel spokesman Gabriel Romero said in a release. “The extent of the damage to roads, bridges and other infrastructure is enormous. And for us the amount of damage to our natural gas system is more than we have ever encountered, not only in Colorado but in the other states in which we provide service.

“We are prepared to meet the challenge and will continue coordinating with local and state agencies to take advantage of opportunities to access areas when it is safe to enter and begin our work.”

Editor's note: This post first appeared on Colorado Public News, an award-winning, nonprofit news organization with nearly 50 media partners across Colorado.

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