CO Tightens Flood Oil Spill Rules

Friday, March 6, 2015 @ 06:03 PM gHale


After big floods wrecked havoc on well sites in Colorado, the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) tightened rules for oil and gas operations in the floodplains.

Over 48,250 gallons of oil and 43,478 gallons of produced water spilled in Colorado during the September 2013 floods, according to Colorado Oil and Gas Association. Operators shut in, or halted production, from 2,658 wells in anticipation of the floods.

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“The amount of oil that got into the floodwater was literally and figuratively a drop in the bucket compared to the trillions of gallons (of floodwater) that came through our county,” said Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer. “The (previous) rules worked…You’re rewarding a great response with more rules.”

The new regulations will apply to any oil and gas facility, drilling and well servicing operation in land declared a 100-year floodplain by a federal agency or Colorado municipality, county or state agency.

New oil and gas wells within a floodplain will have to come equipped with remote shut-in capabilities and have secondary containment areas. Operators of new wells will end up required to notify the director of the COGCC and have a reaction plan if the site is within a floodplain.

All wells in a floodplain must have or end up retrofitted with containment berms constructed of steel rings or the engineered equivalent to protect from floodwater or debris. New and existing tanks must anchor to the ground with anchors engineered to resist flotation, collapse and other instability. Pits with exploration and production waste will not end up permitted.

“Trout Unlimited maintains that the best way to avoid contamination from floodwater events is to avoid locating within a floodplain,” said Shane Cross, staff attorney with Trout Unlimited. “But we think these rules go a long way toward addressing these risks.”

Ed Ingve, of Aurora-based Renegade Oil & Gas Company LLC, said he believes the stricter regulations are unnecessary and would not have lessened the “already minimal” impact of flood-related oil spills in 2013 had they been in place.

He said meeting the new regulations will cost him $100,000 to $200,000. Ingve said his company has already taken an approximately $6 million-a-year hit because of the oil depression.

“That’s money I could use to maintain employees, keep other wells producing or maybe buy a vacation home, who knows,” Ingve said. “But that’s my money, and you guys have a responsibility to make sure it’s not being wasted.

“Your goal is not to have the toughest rules. Your goal as a commission is to be the most balanced and have the best rules out there.”

Rules for new wells take effect this summer. Old wells will have until April 1, 2016, to make required modifications. Operators of those wells can request a different effective date on or before Feb. 1, 2016. Operators will have until April 1, 2016, to create an inventory of operations within a floodplain.



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