State-wide inspections follow fatal Colorado gas explosion

State Gov. Hickenlooper orders review of oil and gas operations for the sake of public safety.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  May 3, 2017 at 6:23 AM
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May 3 (UPI) -- A review of state oil and gas operations is necessary to protect the public safety following a fatal blast that left two people dead, Colorado's governor said.

Two people were left dead and one person was critically injured after a gas explosion in Firestone, a town in Weld County. 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.

"Public safety is paramount," he said in a statement issued late Tuesday. "We are assessing whether these operations were conducted in compliance with state law and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's rules."

Anadarko Petroleum, which operated the well in question, responded to the incident in late April 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 tied to the fatalities. The original well was drilled by a previous operator in 1993. Local authorities said the cause of the incident was under investigation, but there was no immediate threat to the community.

Local authorities said during a press conference that non-odorized gas had seeped into a nearby home through an abandoned pipeline. Hickenlooper's order calls for inspections to ensure abandoned lines are properly sealed, among other things, within 30 days.

Anadarko said its inspection process should take about a month, sidelining a total regional capacity of about 13,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. The company said it would pay particular attention to wells in housing and commercial areas and operations would not be restarted until each of those has gone through additional inspection procedures.

The company said Tuesday it would continue to err on the side caution in order to provide assurances to the surrounding community.

"We 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," CEO Al Walker said in a statement.

A natural gas pipeline owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Co. burst open in September 2011, sparking a massive fireball that ripped through a San Bruno neighborhood. The explosion killed eight people and destroyed 37 homes.

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