Fracking Fluid Leaked for 30 Hours

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 @ 11:02 PM gHale

Fracking fluid full of oil gushed from a well near Fort Collins, CO, for nearly 30 hours before workers could get it stopped Tuesday afternoon.

A hydraulic failure around 9:30 a.m. Monday caused a piece of equipment to fall onto a valve and break it at the drilling site 4 miles east of Fort Collins. A horizontal stream of green-tinted fluid flowed from the valve for nearly a day and half before crews could gain control of it.

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The workers had the flow stopped shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday. The well operator, PDC Energy, planned to bring in a crew from Texas to stop the gushing liquid, which company officials said an earthen berm was able to contain.

There were no injuries and no threat of an explosion, state oil and gas regulators said.

Workers started drilling the well, called “Ochsner 50-441,” in December. It is about a half mile south of what becomes Harmony Road in Fort Collins and 4 miles east of Interstate 25 in Weld County, southeast of the intersection of Weld County Roads 74 and 15. The nearest home is about 1,500 feet away from the drilling site.

“This was not a blowout,” Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission spokesman Todd Hartman said Tuesday afternoon, adding the incident occurred during the “flowback“ stage of drilling.

“The liquid is ‘frac’ water, with some residual oil, and there is an odor associated with the spill,” Hartman said. “Crews are taking air tests every half hour to ensure no explosive potential.”

Flowback is oil-laden hydraulic fracturing fluid that returns to the surface after it injects into an oil well, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Bart Brookman, PDC Energy’s senior vice president of operations, said they contained the liquid and no environmental problems would result from the incident.

The company dug trenches around the spill perimeter to collect the fluid, Hartman said. Another company was working to plug the well, and a vacuum truck was on scene Tuesday to clean up some of the liquid.

Hartman said he has no estimate for the volume of fracking fluid spilled.

PDC Energy has been involved in seven other oil and gas-related spills and incidents so far in 2013 in Colorado — two of them within the last week, state records show.

Three of those incidents impacted groundwater. In 2012, the company was a part of 27 oil and gas spills and releases, 12 of which contaminated groundwater.

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