Well Fracking In Colorado

Fracking In Colorado
The number of active oil and gas wells in Colorado almost doubled from 22,228 in 2000 to 43,354 in 2010. Analysts believe there is more oil shale and shale gas to be found in the state. Pushing the lease growth is the discovery of oil in the Niobrara shale formation, which sits more than 6,000 feet below the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. The oil is not uniformly distributed in the vast shale and limestone formation, which stretches from southern Colorado into Wyoming

New Well Drilling and Fracking In Colorado

  • Gas and oil leases in six Colorado counties — Larimer, Weld, Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and El Paso — more than doubled between 2008 and 2011, with 8,100 leases filed from August 2010 to August 2011, according to county records. Leases were granted to 40 different companies. If Weld County, a traditional oil and gas area, is removed, leasing activity jumped to 2,700 leases in 2010-2011, from 117 in the same period in 2008-09. According to the Denver Post, “Propelling the rush is the discovery of oil in the Niobrara — a geological formation sitting more than 6,000 feet below the Front Range.”

Colorado Fracking Well Projects

  • In August 2012, about 30,000 acres will be put up for lease for oil & gas drilling near the North Fork Valley communities of Hotchkiss, Paonia, and Crawford, Colorado. The Bureau of Land Management released a March 2012 Draft Preliminary Environmental Assessment and announced a Finding of No Significant Impact. The finding was based on two old guidance documents: a 1989 Resource Management Plan and a 1987 Report on Oil & Gas. Critics say oil & gas has changed a lot over the years, particularly the growth of fracking, and more is known today about possible health risks, with BLM currently working on new guidance documents. They say a detailed Environmental Impact Statement is needed for the decision, particularly since the parcels being considered are near Paonia Reservoir, Fire Mountain Canal, Cottonwood Creek and other critical waterways.

Gothic Shale

  • Bill Barrett Corporation has drilled and completed several gas wells in Colorado’s section of the Gothic shale formation. The wells are in Montezuma County, Colorado, in the southeast part of the Paradox basin. A horizontal well in the Gothic flowed 5,700 MCF per day.

Fracking Disposal Wells in Colorago

  • Colorado has about 305 disposal wells and two or three sets of earthquakes in the state have been linked to injection wells, although none definitively since the early 2000s. One of the earliest known cases of “induced seismicity” from wastewater injection occurred at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal in 1966, linked to a well designed to dispose of tainted water from the chemical weapons site. More recently, a series of small earthquakes near Trinidad may have been related to drilling injection wells.
  • In 2011, the oil and gas commission began requiring a site review by the Colorado Geological Survey to look for proximity to known faults before permitting injection wells. The commission also limits the injection pressures for the wells to prevent fractures and limits the total volume of wastewater pumped down the wells.

Colorado Fracking Water Concerns

  • In 2011, the oil and gas commission began requiring a site review by the Colorado Geological Survey to look for proximity to known faults before permitting injection wells. The commission also limits the injection pressures for the wells to prevent fractures and limits the total volume of wastewater pumped down the wells
  • Several projects in the state have proposed draining water out of Colorado rivers and siphoning the water to towns and cities that have been selling large quantities for fracking. Environmental advocates note that fracking in Colorado could negatively impact the state’s rivers, as the process requires a significant amount of water.

Colorado Water Intensive Fracking Projects

  • the Windy Gap Firming Project, which proposes to drain up to an additional 10 billion gallons of water out of the Upper Colorado River every year and pipe and pump that water to northern Front Range Colorado cities including Loveland, Longmont and Greeley — three cities that have recently started selling water for fracking (Greeley sold over 500 million gallons in 2011).
  • the Northern Integrated Supply Project, which proposes to drain an additional 13 billion gallons per year out of the Cache la Poudre River northwest of Fort Collins.
  • the Seaman Reservoir Project by the City of Greeley on the North Fork of the Cache la Poudre River, which proposes to drain several thousand acre feet of water out of the North Fork and the mainstem of the Cache la Poudre.
  • the Flaming Gorge Pipeline, which could reportedly take a large amount of water—up to 81 billion gallons—out of the Green and Colorado River systems every year and pipe and pump that water to the Front Range.
  • the City of Denver has opened up drilling and fracking on its property at Denver International Airport, while Denver is also pushing forward with the Moffat Collection System Project, a proposal to drain water out of the Upper Colorado River and pipe it to Denver.

In March 2012 at Colorado’s auction for unallocated water, companies that provide water for hydraulic fracturing at well sites were top bidders on supplies once claimed exclusively by farmers. The Northern Water Conservancy District runs the auction, offering excess water diverted from the Colorado River Basin — 25,000 acre-feet so far this year — and conveyed through a 13-mile tunnel under the Continental Divide. The average price paid for water at the auctions has subsequently increased from around $22 an acre-foot in 2010 to $28 in 2012. In June 2012, the town of Erie doubled its commercial water rate from $5.73 per 1,000 gallons to $11.46 per 1,000 gallons — for oil and gas developers only.

About 98 percent of the state is experiencing varying levels of drought in 2012, according to the Colorado State University (CSU), with the most severe in the Arkansas Basin, where drought levels range from D1, or “moderate,” to D3, or “extreme.” The Texas drought from summer 2011 is also still affecting Colorado, CSU said.

An analysis by Environmental Working Group and The Endocrine Disruption Exchange (TEDX) found that at least 65 chemicals used by natural gas companies in Colorado are listed as hazardous under six major federal laws designed to protect Americans from toxic substances.

On July 9, 2012, the Aurora City Council in CO voted to “lease” water to Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum, which will use the water for hydraulic fracturing. Anadarko will pay the city $9.5 million over five years for access to almost 2.5 billion gallons of water.

Fracking Hazards in Colorado

Air & Health Effects of Fracking in Colorado

  • A study conducted over three years by the Colorado School of Public Health concluded that fracking can contribute to “acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites”. The report will be published in Science of the Total Environment. “The study found those living within a half-mile of a natural gas drilling site faced greater health risks than those who live farther away.” Researchers located “potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene.” Benzene is classified as a known carcinogen by the EPA. Concerns about water pollution are well publicized. However, this study illuminates the dangers fracking poses to air quality. The LA Times reports, “It’s almost as if a small factory is rapidly erected at the drilling site, as machinery and tanks of chemicals and water are brought in. Studies have shown that air pollution at many of these sites is greater than in surrounding areas.” Researchers collected data in Garfield County, CO from January 2008 to November 2010, using EPA air quality standards. The study reiterates earlier research which shows that prolonged exposure to airborne petroleum hydrocarbons causes “an increased risk of eye irritation and headaches, asthma symptoms, acute childhood leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, and multiple myeloma.” Lead author of the study, Lisa McKenzie, PhD, MPH (masters of public health) stresses the importance of including air pollution into the national discourse on hydraulic fracturing.

Colorado Fracking Methane Concerns

  • A study conducted over three years by the Colorado School of Public Health concluded that fracking can contribute to “acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites”. The report will be published in Science of the Total Environment. “The study found those living within a half-mile of a natural gas drilling site faced greater health risks than those who live farther away.” Researchers located “potentially toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the air near the wells including benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene.” Benzene is classified as a known carcinogen by the EPA. Concerns about water pollution are well publicized. However, this study illuminates the dangers fracking poses to air quality. The LA Times reports, “It’s almost as if a small factory is rapidly erected at the drilling site, as machinery and tanks of chemicals and water are brought in. Studies have shown that air pollution at many of these sites is greater than in surrounding areas.” Researchers collected data in Garfield County, CO from January 2008 to November 2010, using EPA air quality standards. The study reiterates earlier research which shows that prolonged exposure to airborne petroleum hydrocarbons causes “an increased risk of eye irritation and headaches, asthma symptoms, acute childhood leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, and multiple myeloma.” Lead author of the study, Lisa McKenzie, PhD, MPH (masters of public health) stresses the importance of including air pollution into the national discourse on hydraulic fracturing.

Colorado Fracking Ozone Concerns

  • According to the state of Colorado, natural gas and oil operations were the largest source of ozone-forming pollution, VOCs and NOx, in 2008.

Colorado Fracking Silica Concerns

  • In July 2012, two federal agencies released research highlighting dangerous levels of exposure to silica sand at oil and gas well sites in five states: Colorado, Texas, North Dakota, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania. Silica is a key component used in fracking. High exposure to silica can lead to silicosis, a potentially fatal lung disease linked to cancer. Nearly 80 percent of all air samples taken by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health showed exposure rates above federal recommendations. Nearly a third of all samples surpassed the recommended limits by 10 times or more. The results triggered a worker safety hazard alert by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Colorado Fracking Accidents and Spills

  • In 2004, Canada-based Encana Corp. improperly cemented and hydraulically fractured a well in Garfield County, Colorado. The state found that the poor cementing caused natural gas and associated contaminants to travel underground more than 4,000 feet laterally. As a result, a creek became contaminated with dangerous levels of carcinogenic benzene. The state of Colorado fined Encana a then-record $371,200. After more than seven years of cleanup efforts, as of September 2012, three groundwater monitoring wells near the creek still showed unsafe levels of benzene.

Colorado Fracking Regulations

  • Effective April 1, 2012, companies using fracking must post on FracFocus within 60 days the names of products, chemicals, and their CAS numbers. Landowners within 500 feet of a well will receive information on how fracking works and how to do baseline water testing. The information is also disclosed to Colorado Oil and Gas Commission and to health care professionals in an emergency. The chemical family of each proprietary compound will be disclosed to the public, although it allows exemptions for “trade secrets.”
  • The Colorado General Assembly created the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to “foster the responsible development of Colorado’s oil and gas natural resources.” To do so, the COGCC developed and implemented regulations to govern the oil and gas industry. In 2010, there were more than 43,000 active wells in Colorado. That year the COGCC employed 15 inspectors, 7 who performed a total of 16,228 inspections.
  • In December 2011, in accordance with new rules brokered by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, energy companies in the state will have to disclose to the public the chemical family of each chemical they use in their fracking process. It has been reported that the disclosure must be made within two months on an independent internet database: FracFocus.org.
  • The new rules require drillers to file a “notice of intent to conduct a fracking treatment” of a well 48 hours prior to a frack job, and to identify the chemicals used in a frack job within 60 days after the job is finished. Chemicals can still remain protected by trade secret designation, although that designation can be challenged by the public. Even if there are complaints, however, the COGCC is not required by the new rules to investigate, although citizens can then file a legal claim.

Colorado Fracking Regulatory Violations

  • In 2004, a faulty natural gas well casing in Colorado was linked to contamination of water 4,000 feet away from the well site.
  • A 2008-2011 Colorado School of Public Health hydrological study found that as the number of gas wells in Garfield County increased, methane levels in water wells also rose. State regulators later fined EnCana Oil and Gas for faulty well casings that allowed methane to migrate into water supplies through natural faults.
  • In 2008, a drilling wastewater pit in Colorado leaked 1.6 million gallons of fluid, which migrated into the Colorado River.