Energy policy — coalbed methane: Las Animas County producers implement substitute water supply plans for produced water

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From The Trinidad Times (Randy Woock):

Las Animas County’s four largest gas companies — Pioneer Natural Resources, El Paso E&P Company, XTO Energy and Red River Ranch Holdings — have implemented SWSPs in order to continue gas production in the about 3,068 CBM wells operating within the central Raton Basin. Industry activities in the area discharge from CBM wells a combined total of about 10 million gallons of produced water per day. The SWSPs were approved by the State Engineer’s Office through March 31, 2011 and are nearing the end of their first approved year of implementation. The SWSPs call for replacement water to come from, “a lease with the City of Trinidad to supply up to 50 acre-feet of fully consumable water from the city’s storage account in Trinidad Reservoir.”[…]

A summer 2009 decision by the Colorado Supreme Court in the Vance v. Simpson case determined that the groundwater produced during CBM drilling production, previously considered a waste by-product, was of “beneficial use,” and thus had to undergo permitting and comply with Colorado groundwater laws. The state then passed an authorization for the State Engineer’s Office to approve alternates such as SWSPs in place of augmentation plans. That authorization for alternates extends from March 31, 2010 to Dec. 31, 2012 in order to provide energy companies in Colorado with extra time to integrate CBM wells that withdraw waters considered tributary and that impact “over-appropriated” streams into the state water court’s adjudication process.

Colorado Division of Water Resources Division 2 Engineer Steve Witte told The Times Independent that the Division had turned down initial requests by the companies to utilize the non-tributary water component of the CBM produced water as a replacement source. “The concern that we have is the native tributary water supply that water rights along the Purgatoire (River) depend upon are not diminished by the withdrawal of groundwater,” Witte said. “The initial proposal was that, of the water that they withdraw from the coal beds, they determined that a portion is tributary and a portion is non-tributary, and they thought that they would simply rely on the non-tributary water as a replacement for the stream depletions that were calculated.

More coalbed methane coverage here and here.

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