On Wednesday, energy operator Anadarko Petroleum identified a tank that released “condensate,” which is a mixture of light oil and water, into the South Platte River near Milliken. According to COGA, a flow-line pipe used to carry condensate between equipment and the storage tank was compromised by silt and debris that broke the line between tanks. Anadarko Petroleum pumped the remaining condensate from the storage tank and put absorbent booms into the water.
Another Anadarko tank released more than 13,000 gallons of oil into the St. Vrain River in Firestone. COGA says it was also due to a compromised pipe.
According to Doug Flanders, COGA’s Director of Policy, the spills were immediately reported to the National Response Center, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and Weld County Local Emergency Planning Committee. He said containment and clean-up efforts were immediately initiated, with oversight from the EPA, COGCC and CDPHE.
Flanders says fracturing fluid additives were not released into the rivers. “These chemicals are not stored on producing well sites,” Flanders said…
At least eight other minor oil spills have been reported throughout the state. Six teams from the state are also doing their own inspection of the wells. The industry estimates that only about 10 percent of the wells in the worst hit areas have yet to be assessed.
— NASA Earth (@NASA_EO) September 19, 2013
From the Associated Press via The Pueblo Chieftain:
Colorado’s flooding shut down hundreds of natural gas and oil wells in the state’s main petroleum-producing region and triggered at least two spills, temporarily suspending a multibillion-dollar drilling frenzy and sending inspectors into the field to gauge the extent of pollution. Besides the possible environmental impact, flood damage to roads, railroads and other infrastructure will affect the region’s energy production for months to come. And analysts warn that images of flooded wellheads from the booming Wattenberg Field will increase public pressure to impose restrictions on drilling techniques such as fracking.
“There’s been massive amounts of growth in the last two years and it’s certainly expected to continue,” Caitlyn McCrimmon, a senior research associate for Calgary-based energy consultant ITG Investment Research, said of Colorado oil and gas drilling. “The only real impediment to growth in this area would be if this gives enough ammunition to environmentalists to rally support for fracking bans, which they had started working on before this.”
Two spills were reported by Anadarko Petroleum Corp. — 323 barrels (13,500 gallon) along the St. Vrain River near Platteville, and 125 barrels (5,250 gallons) into the South Platte River near Milliken, federal and state regulators said. The St. Vrain feeds into the South Platte, which flows across Colorado’s plains and into Nebraska. In both cases, the oil apparently was swept away by floodwaters. Both releases involved condensate, a mixture of oil and water, said Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Matthew Allen.
The environmental damage still was being assessed, but officials in Weld County, where the spills took place, said the oil was just one among a host of contaminants caught up in floodwaters washing through communities along the Rocky Mountain foothills.
From the Denver Business Journal (Cathy Proctor):
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) said Thursday it received reports of 10 releases of oil as of noon. “Two of those are notable; the remaining eight appear to be minor,” the COGCC said in a statement. Both of the major spills come from equipment operated by Anadarko Petroleum Corp., the COGCC said…
“In both cases, it appears the oil left the site in floodwaters,” the state said.
By comparison, the combined total amount released in the two larger spills reported to date — nearly 19,000 gallons — is just a bit less than the amount of water flowing past the U.S. Geological Survey’s gauge every two seconds on the South Platte River outside of Fort Lupton. The gauges measured about 10,000 gallons of water per second flowing down the South Platte River outside Fort Lupton Thursday — more than 10 times the average, according to the USGS’s stream flow data That’s down from about 67,000 gallons per-second passing the same gauge at the peak water flow during the flooding Sept. 12-14, according to the USGS.
From The Greeley Tribune (Sharon Dunn):
State regulators spent Thursday following 10 reported spills from oil and gas facilities throughout Weld County, including two that dumped almost 19,000 gallons into the floodwaters.
The state Department of Natural Resources reported 10 total, but eight were classified as minimal on Thursday. Operators throughout the area will continue inspecting their own facilities until the waters recede, all under the close eyes of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state Department of Health and Environment, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“In the context of this historic event, these spills are not an unexpected part of many other sources of contamination associated with the flood,” said Todd Hartman, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, which oversees the COGCC. “Those include very large volumes (millions of gallons) of raw, municipal sewage and other hazards associated with households, agriculture, business and industry.”
The 19,000 gallons is the equivalent of about .06 of 1 acre-foot, which is the amount of water covering one acre to a depth of 1 foot, or 326,000 gallons. The Wattenberg field on average produces 5.6 million gallons (134,333 barrels) of oil per day.
“This storm was simply a massive natural disaster,” said John Christiansen, spokesman for Anadarko Petroleum Corp. in Denver. “I don’t know that anyone could have predicted” the destruction.
Mark Salley, a spokesman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said it’s too soon to determine what the environmental impact of the spills may be, but he said oil and gas isn’t the only concern.
“There have been millions of gallons of raw sewage released to the waters, and that’s a greater focus as far as public health is concerned,” Salley said.
The spilled oil, called light condensate, had long since washed down the river once it was discovered, industry officials said. They were able to suck up through a vacuum some remaining condensate in one of the tanks.
The two sites, one south of Milliken and the other near Firestone, were relatively new wells drilled in the flood plain. They were designed with fencing and equipment reinforcements to withstand flooding — but not a 1,000-year flood, said Korby Bracken, director of environmental health and safety at Anadarko in Denver.
Crews discovered both of the spills late Wednesday, based on visual inspections and electronic data. One was a 5,250-gallon spill from a storage tank south of Milliken near the confluence of both the South Platte and St. Vrain rivers. Another tank has released 13,566 gallons near Firestone along the St. Vrain.
“In both cases, it appears the oil left the site in floodwaters,” according to a statement issued by Hartman. “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.”
Anadarko officials said the damage to the tanks was caused by rushing debris cracking flow lines into the storage tanks. Anadarko officials on Thursday said they have deployed 150 people on the ground and in the air to assess critical oil and gas sites. Most of their sites remain intact, but are littered with debris and sediment, Bracken said.
Anadarko and other large operators in the Wattenberg Field worked in earnest to shut in their wells and empty their storage tanks prior to the flooding, but few knew just how far the waters would swell.
Bracken said Anadarko crews began shutting off production and emptying tanks along the flood plain last week. The two tanks that spilled were not emptied.
“They just weren’t facilities we thought were going to be impacted,” Bracken said. “We’re looking at a major disaster. We addressed the high priority ones, out of the 2,500 tank batteries we had in the basin, with two issues identified. We like to see zero.”
Hartman reported that the eight remaining minor spills “would be considered spills described as sheens coming off of a piece of equipment rather than a measurable volume of petroleum product.”
A typical oil storage tank holds 300 barrels, though some tanks are larger. The two releases from Anadarko involved approximately one and one-half tanks.
Though officials have pinpointed specific sites of concern, Bracken said it was too soon to tell if there were other Anadarko facilities that were compromised, but inspections will continue as the waters recede. Some sites are still not accessible due to floodwaters or road closures. Crews have been surveying from the air, and using amphibious vehicles to get to all 675 sites in the flood plains, Bracken said.
Six teams of regulators were on the ground Thursday doing inspections, with two surveying by air.
Noble Energy noted late Wednesday that they had identified three releases of minor natural gas leaks, and two wells were shut in. A third release, the company reported, remained inaccessible due to floodwaters.
Encana Corporation, conversely, has been able to inspect all of its facilities, with now a total of 133 wells shut in and all 424 tank batteries inspected, with no reportable leaks as of Thursday, reported Doug Hock, spokesman for the company.