Colorado proposes oil and gas changes after fatal April explosion

Non-odorized gas seeped into a nearby home from a severed flowline that was still attached to a well.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Aug. 23, 2017 at 5:45 AM
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Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Following a review triggered by a fatal April gas explosion, Colorado's governor unveiled seven proposals to address the ways the oil and gas industry operates.

Two people were left dead and one person was severely injured after a gas explosion in Firestone, a town in Weld County, in April. Anadarko Petroleum, which operated the well in question, responded to the incident by closing down more than 3,000 wells in the county. Its industry counterpart, Great Western Oil & Gas Co., followed suit a few days later.

Anadarko's well was situated about 200 feet away from the home in question. The original well was drilled by a previous operator in 1993, abandoned but still attached to a well, which later allowed non-odorized gas to seep into the nearby home.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called for a review of all oil and gas operations, including inspections of any lines within 1,000 feet of an occupied building. In response, Hickenlooper's office recommended seven policy initiatives ranging from peer-review of the rules established by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to creating a fund to help plug and abandon orphan wells.

"We hope these actions, combined with the many other required and voluntary steps already taken, will help reassure residents about the safety of our operations," Anadarko said in a statement.

The Colorado Petroleum Council, part of the industry-wide trade group, the American Petroleum Institute, said the April incident served as a reminder of its "core value of safety."

Colorado is rich in shale oil reserves, supplying about 3 percent of total U.S. crude oil production in large part from its Niobrara and Denver-Julesberg basins. Production quadrupled from 2010 to 2015, but slowed down last year because of the strains of lower crude oil prices. The state's gas sector was slowed by the April incident.

In addition to Hickenlooper's recommendations, the state Department of Public Health and Environment said it would form an alliance with state and federal health administrations and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association to address workplace safety.

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