Colorado oil, gas regulators say operators 'appear' to be taking mandatory review seriously

DENVER – Colorado regulators have received most of the reports detailing the location of above-ground vertical oil and gas well pipes that was required in an order from Gov. John Hickenlooper last month, but it “appears” some small operators have yet to submit their reports, the state oil and gas commission said Friday.

On May 2, Gov. John Hickenlooper and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ordered every oil and gas operator in the state to inspect every existing flowline not in active use and to document the location of any active flowline within 1,000 feet of a building.

The notice to report required the companies to map the locations of the lines and report back to the oil and gas commission. The companies also had to be sure that any of their abandoned wells or flowlines had been properly capped and noted. The reports for the active wells were due back to the state by May 30, and integrity tests for active flowlines and compliance with proper abandonment procedures have a June 30 deadline to be completed.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission had received 129 reports from the various operators by the May 30 deadline, Department of Natural Resources communications director Todd Hartman said Friday.

Hartman noted that the 129 reports were actually beyond the 116 COGCC had expected, but said that some of the reports might be duplicates or corrected reports.

He said COGCC has so far processed 80 of the reports, including those from the state’s largest operators, but that the work was time and labor-intensive.

But Hartman also said that “it appears there may be a small number of operators that have yet to submit the required information,” and said COGCC was contacting those operators to be sure they complete the required work.

He also said that it’s possible some of the operators have over-reported, noting that at least one large operator gave information for each well and flowline within 1,500 feet of buildings—beyond the 1,000-foot limit.

The reports received so far include data for flowlines connected with 16,514 wells, Hartman said.

But he added that the “voluminous” data would take time to compile and release, as the state has to cross-check the provided data with existing well information in state databases.

“At this initial stage, the COGCC believes that industry is taking compliance with the order seriously,” Hartman said. “It will take further review, however, to develop firmer details about overall compliance.”

Hickenlooper ordered the mapping of Colorado’s approximately 54,00 wells and their associated flowlines days after Anadarko Petroleum, the company responsible for a leaking flowline that led to a deadly explosion in Firestone, announced it was shutting in thousands of its wells in the state to review and inspect them.

The industry has been even further scrutinized since Hickenlooper’s order after another Anadarko crew suffered casualties in an oil tank battery explosion in Mead, and a Logan County natural gas storage well suffered a blow-out, forcing nearby residents to evacuate before crews could cap it again. 

More updates from the DNR and COGCC on the progress of the review are expected in coming weeks.

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