Governor lists safety initiatives after Colorado oil, gas review

Colorado Gov. John W. Hickenlooper (D) announced eight policy initiatives following a 3-month review of oil and gas operations in the state after a natural gas flowline exploded in a home in April, killing 2 people and injuring others. “The actions we announced today are a responsible and appropriate response that places public safety first,” the governor said during an Aug. 22 press conference in Denver.

Colorado Gov. John W. Hickenlooper (D) announced eight policy initiatives following a 3-month review of oil and gas operations in the state after a natural gas flowline exploded in a home in April, killing 2 people and injuring others. “The actions we announced today are a responsible and appropriate response that places public safety first,” the governor said during an Aug. 22 press conference in Denver.

Hickenlooper said the changes will come within 12 months, either through Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission rulemakings or by legislation, to:

• Strengthen COGCC’s flowline regulations.

• Enhance the 8-1-1 “one-call” program.

• Create a nonprofit orphan well fund to plug and abandon orphan wells, and provide refunds for in-home methane monitors.

• Prohibit future US gas taps.

• Create a technical workgroup to improve safety training.

• Request peer reviews of some COGCC rules.

• Explore an ambient methane leak detection pilot program.

The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) also plans to establish an alliance with the US Occupational Safety & Health Administration, the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, and the Colorado Oil & Gas Association. It will address oil and gas safety by developing best practices to ensure its workforce’s safety and health starting in September.

“Our state is fortunate to receive a federal grant to evaluate and address worker safety specific to oil and gas operations” said CDPHE Executive Director Larry Wolk.

Responding to Hickenlooper’s announcement, Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley said the American Petroleum Institute affiliate and its members are committed to safe and responsible operations, environmental stewardship, and economic prosperity for communities throughout the state.

“We are committed to working with the governor and the state over the next several months as we work through these proposals, all the while continuing to deliver the energy that runs our state and our country with the highest possible standards and safety practices," she said.

An abandoned flow line that had been cut but not capped exploded on Apr. 27 in a home in Firestone, 25 miles north of Denver, killing the home’s owner and his brother-in-law as they worked on a water heater in the basement, and inuring the home owner’s wife. Investigators said the line leaked unrefined gas, to which an odorant had not been added, making it undetectable to the home’s occupants.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which operated a vertical well that a previous operator had drilled in 1993 about 200 ft from where the home was built recently, immediately shut in more than 3,000 of its producing vertical wells in northeastern Colorado (OGJ Online, Apr. 27, 2017).

COGCC ordered oil and gas operators in the state to inspect their flowlines on May 2 and verify that any not in use are fully abandoned by May 30. The order also directed operators to document the location and integrity of any existing flowline within 1,000 ft of a building by June 30 (OGJ Online, May 4, 2017).

Anadarko subsequently restarted production at 30 of the northeastern Colorado wells it took out of operation following the explosion after largely completing its inspections and tests of associated equipment, such as facilities and underground lines associated with each wellhead (OGJ Online, July 26, 2017).

“Through the balance of the year, we’ll continue to return the vertical wells that have passed inspection back into production,” a spokesman said at the time. “Any well that has not passed inspection—including flowlines, associated tank facilities, and wellhead—will not be brought back into production.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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