Garfield County mapping project pinpoints gas wells
December 27, 2009
GARFIELD COUNTY – Garfield County officials now have the ability to pinpoint the location of practically any single gas well or gas compressor station instantaneously, thanks to a recently completed project by the county’s oil and gas liaison office.
And since there are some 6,700 active wells in the county, connected to approximately 2,100 well pads and 188 compressor stations, this can be very useful information under many different circumstances, said the director of the liaison office, Judy Jordan.
The information, in the form of a digital map of the county superimposed onto aerial photographs shot this year, is stored on computers at the liaison office in Rifle, and ultimately is to be uploaded onto the county’s network.
It was put together mainly by an intern, Ryan Clarke, a graduate of the Redlands University in southern California, who worked here for six months before finishing up in December.
Working with Jordan and Wendy Swan, both of the liaison office, as well as the county’s Geographic Information Systems experts, Clarke is largely credited with development of the mapping system.
“That was a very time-consuming process,” said Swan last week.
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Jordan described how the team matched the aerial photos, which showed the physical signs of drilling activity, with information from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s database detailing the location of gas-well bore holes.
Clarke loaded the resulting mapping into the county’s existing GIS database, with colored dots to show where each well pad and compressor station is located.
From each pad, as many as 20 wells can be drilled, according to industry sources. Compressor stations, as their name implies, compress the natural gas prior to its placement into pipelines linked to processing centers.
Previously, Jordan explained, the county had difficulty keeping track of these industrial facilities, because company operators would refer to the well pads by a name, while the state commission’s database would refer to them by an identifying number.
No cross-referencing system was available to the county until the liaison office finished its mapping work, Jordan said.
At present, Jordan said, the map is used mainly to locate facilities that may be linked to complaints or concerns submitted to her office by county residents.
Complaints come in about a variety of issues, including odors, dust, traffic and lights.
“In order to respond to a complaint, we have to able to identify a potential source,” said Jordan, adding that in the past the identification process was fairly hit or miss.
“Before we had the mapping ability, we kind of had to call around,” she explained.
Now, she said, a quick phone conversation with a complainant can easily yield enough information to permit her office to determine which facilities might be involved.
After that, she said, a phone call to the relevant company usually results in action aimed at eliminating the conflict.
Although the system is fairly new, Jordan noted that already there have been incidents in which her office’s intervention has lead to a solution.
One involved lights on a compressor station on Morrisania Mesa near Parachute, Jordan said, which were shining into a nearby home. Using the maps, Jordan was able to locate the likely source of the light, and a call from her office prompted the company to redirect the lights.
The mapping technology also could be useful in getting emergency medical, fire or other response crews up to the more remote well locations, Jordan said.