COGCC orders operators to inspect flowlines following explosion

May 15, 2017
The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission ordered oil and gas operators in the state to inspect their flowlines and verify that any not in use are fully abandoned by May 30.

The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission ordered oil and gas operators in the state to inspect their flowlines and verify that any not in use are fully abandoned by May 30. The May 2 order also directed operators to document the location and integrity of any existing flowline within 1,000 ft of a building by June 30.

COGCC's order came the same day that the Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District said its investigation found that an Apr. 17 home explosion and subsequent fire in Firestone that killed 2 people and injured another occurred because unrefined, non-odorized natural gas entered the residence from a cut and abandoned flowline that had not been disconnected from the wellhead and capped.

Officials also determined that the flow line was controlled when the well was shut in as a precaution on Apr. 17 as part of initial response measures and that no additional contamination or danger exists to neighboring homes, the fire protection district added. It said that the Firestone Police Department will handle the next phase, which is an official death investigation to determine if the Weld County District Attorney's office needs to bring charges.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which operates the vertical well connected to the flowline, shut in more than 3,000 of its wells in northeast Colorado on Apr. 26 as it cooperated with the fire protection district's investigation of the Firestone blast (OGJ Online, Apr. 27, 2017). It also expressed sympathy for the victims and their families.

"The safety of our employees and the people who live and work in the communities in which we operate is our No. 1 priority," Anadarko Chief Executive Officer Al Walker said on May 2 after COGCC issued its order. "Consistent with that, and out of an abundance of caution, last week we shut in our vertical wells in the Oak Meadows area and throughout the basin. We hope that doing so also provided some additional reassurance to the community in the wake of this tragic accident."

He said that Anadarko "will continue to take all necessary and appropriate steps in that regard, and will continue to cooperate fully with all ongoing investigations to ensure we fully understand the basis for the fire district's conclusions and that no stone is left unturned prior to any final determinations." It also will continue working with COGCC on additional steps and measures the agency deems necessary, Walker said.

The Colorado Oil & Gas Association expressed its support for COGCC's flowline inspection order. "Many of our operators already have begun initial steps to begin reinspection and testing. We are also proactively meeting with state regulatory officials this week to discuss how we can best guarantee all safeguards are met," COGA Pres. Dan Haley said.

COGA and its members believe it is critical for Coloradans to feel oil and gas development is safe, and will do their part to help build trust with residents and communities, Haley said. The association also has created a new committee for operators and others to share best practices and lessons learned from COGCC's robust testing process.

"It's also important for Coloradans to know that new technologies and advancement in development, including innovative horizontal drilling, are making our industry safer for communities and the environment," Haley said. "For example, pads at new drilling operations now directly hook up to heavily regulated midstream companies, relying on new and safe technologies."

About the Author

Nick Snow

NICK SNOW covered oil and gas in Washington for more than 30 years. He worked in several capacities for The Oil Daily and was founding editor of Petroleum Finance Week before joining OGJ as its Washington correspondent in September 2005 and becoming its full-time Washington editor in October 2007. He retired from OGJ in January 2020.