Source: Greeley Tribune (CO), June 18, 2013
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com
PDC Energy on Monday formally agreed to pay $35,000 in response to February’s 30-hour, 84,000-gallon fracking flow back fluid spill north of Windsor.
During the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s meeting in Grand Junction, PDC offered to go above and beyond an otherwise minor fine by entering into an administrative order by consent. Typically, the commission weighs its enforcement options to the tune of $1,000 per violation per day, but in the case of the PDC incident — which was contained to the well pad and largely based on “bad luck” — that would have totalled only about $9,000.
“We understand that there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on the commission,” said Adell Heneghan, vice president of environmental health and safety with PDC. “We also understand that the community is crying out for more enforcement, and we believe that this is the appropriate thing to do.”
In addition to the fine, PDC will also arrange for three Weld County training classes titled “Effective Strategies and Tactics for Municipal Responders,” which will focus on strategies emergency workers can use when responding to an oil or gas well situation. Those classes, hosted by Texas-based Wild Well Control, will be held July 6, July 19 and July 20.
As was previously reported, the drilling site between Weld County roads 72 and 74, just west of Colo. 257, suffered a “mechanical failure” that caused a piece of equipment to fall and strike the well head, damaging the master valve handle while shearing the tubing hangar locking pin. That resulted in a greenish-brown sludge of flow back fluid and steam to spew horizontally from the damaged port while crews raced to cap the well. Soil tests and groundwater samples indicated there was little to no contamination.
In total, 40 soil samples were collected during and after the incident. Results indicated contamination was below state standards, according to the report. Crews also excavated 18 inches of nearby soil after the well was capped at 4 p.m. Feb. 12. A second plug was later set to ensure containment. The nearest body of surface water was about 1,800 feet away, and the shallowest groundwater in the area was 15 feet below the surface. Tests indicated it was not affected. Crews also monitored air quality for any “explosive” qualities, though none was found. The nearest home was 1,500 feet from the well.
The company and COGCC’s agreement to work out a different type of penalty was largely unprecedented and raised questions among some commissioners whether the fine structure for incidents should be reevaluated.
“PDC’s response was exemplary,” said COGCC Director Matt Lepore at the meeting. “It presented for the staff a very interesting, unusual and challenging enforcement proposition. They could have fought this. They probably would have won. But they understand that’s not the best thing for the industry to do, and I appreciate that very much.”