The Denver Post takes an in-depth look at the water requirements from hydraulic fracturing


From The Denver Post (Bruce Finley):

Each well drilled requires 1 million to 5 million gallons of water, and more when they are refracked. Drillers “may need more water than we have,” said John McGee, water manager for the city of Loveland, which has leased municipal water. In Fort Lupton, tanker trucks tap hydrants to fill up. It’s the same in Greeley, Frederick, Firestone and other communities amid the expanding oil fields north of Denver. The trucks haul the water to rigs, where fracking crews mix it with sand and chemicals and pump it thousands of feet underground to release oil and gas. But as companies propose new deals with utilities, including Aurora Water, they’re finding that a resource often scarce for people and agriculture may be limited for fracking too.

State natural resources planners say they’re working with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to calculate, within the next week or so, how much water may be available for oil and gas drilling…

“It’s up to each municipality to see how much available water they have to sell,” said Sean Conway, a Weld County commissioner who helped launch a “Niobrara Working Group” to deal with water and other issues. “We must ensure that we don’t jeopardize our agricultural heritage.” Drillers tapping town and city water for fracking “is going to further put pressure on Colorado,” Conway said. “We really need to be capturing that unallocated compact water that now is flowing out of the state…

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry trade group, estimates that tapping the Niobrara would require 6.5 billion gallons a year — about 20,000 acre-feet. Colorado uses more than 100 times that amount. “Even with a vastly increased drilling program, the quantity of water used is still small in the overall scheme of Colorado’s water use,” COGA president Tisha Schuller said…

Greeley this year sold more than 1,150 acre-feet of excess water from fire hydrants, mostly to oil and gas companies, earning more than $1 million, said city water and sewer director Jon Monson. The city also leased 26,000 acre-feet of surplus surface water to farmers. This was a wet year…

Here are a few of the towns and cities that leased water for fracking of wells to extract oil and gas along Colorado’s Front Range.

Greeley — 1,150 acre-feet

Longmont — About 400 acre-feet

Longmont has a 20-year supply agreement that will increase to 540 acre-feet in 2012 with a cap of 600 acre-feet a year

Fort Lupton — 441 acre-feet

Loveland — amount not disclosed

Frederick — 100 acre-feet

Firestone — amount undetermined

South Adams County Water and Sanitation District — amount undetermined

Walsenburg — arranged deal for at least 5 acre-feet this year for Shell Oil, but the company has not moved ahead

More coverage from Bobby Magill writing for the Fort Collins Coloradoan. From the article:

Though Anadarko plans to drill in the Wattenberg Field primarily northeast of Denver, some of that oil development might move into Larimer County, making it an active player rather than just an economic beneficiary relegated to the sidelines of a new oil boom. “We are encouraged by the potential that Larimer County could hold, but right now, it’s too soon to say what our activity there could look like,” Anadarko spokesman Brian Cain said Friday. “It goes slowly as you look meticulously to determine how much potential there is in terms of resources in different areas.”[…]

The company has access to hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Weld County and along Larimer County’s eastern border. So far, Anadarko’s exploration has been limited to 11 horizontal wells drilled in southwest Weld County, which have been producing between 300 and 1,100 barrels of oil per day, according to Anadarko’s announcement Monday…

“This is the sort of thing that transforms the life of landowners (with property in the drilling area),” he said. “It creates wealth in the region. It’s not so much the drilling that matters; it’s the long stream of production that creates wealth for the region.”[…]

“Ozone is already a serious problem in Northern Colorado,” said Gary Wockner, director of Save the Poudre and Clean Water Action in Fort Collins. “Drilling releases hydrogen sulfide, methane, cancer-causing benzene and volatile organic compounds into the air which will cause even more ozone pollution. This drilling will make our air quality worse, cause more asthma attacks and negatively impact the public’s health.”

Mike Chiropolos, lands program director for Western Resource Advocates in Boulder, said Anadarko and other companies drilling the Niobrara should be required to use chemical “tracers” in hydraulic fracturing fluids so that state regulators will be able to tell without a doubt whether “fracking” is contaminating ground and domestic well water.

Meanwhile, Commerce City area residents are worried about a hydraulic fracturing operation near their homes. Here’s a report from Monte Whaley writing for The Denver Post. From the article:

They mostly blamed Adams County for not telling them that oil and gas companies would begin using a controversial exploration method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, near their backyards in an unincorporated portion of the county. “Adams County let us down,” said Commerce City Councilwoman Jadie Carson. “It’s almost like we were violated.”

The well site is located near the intersection of Tower Road and East 104th Avenue near the Reunion subdivision in Commerce City. It was originally permitted in 1972. The state owns the mineral rights to the well, while a private owner maintains the surface ownership. Adams County is overseeing the project but did not notify Commerce City that the fracking would occur over the weekend, city officials said. In fact, no one in the city knew about the drilling until City Councilman Steven Douglas drove by the site early one morning and saw equipment.

More oil and gas coverage here and here.

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