Hickenlooper proposes changes in Colorado oil and gas regulations | AspenTimes.com

Hickenlooper proposes changes in Colorado oil and gas regulations

Sharon Dunn
sdunn@greeleytribune.com

Workers dismantle the charred remains of a house destroyed by an explosion triggered by natural gas in Firestone, Colo. The April 17, blast killed two people. Investigators blamed the explosion on gas leaking from a severed pipeline that was thought to have been abandoned but was still connected to a well. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Tuesday, Aug. 22, that the state is tightening regulations on oil and gas pipelines to reduce the chances of another such explosion. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File)

Gov. John Hickenlooper this morning came out with seven recommendations for change in the oil and gas industry in response to the April explosion in Firestone that killed two people and injured another.

The explosion was the result of something the state has never seen, Hickenlooper said, in which a severed flowline, that had previously been abandoned by the oil and gas operator, was still attached to a well. That well, operated by Anadarko Petroleum Corp., had been shut off for months, but had been turned back on a couple of months prior to the explosion. With the well turned back on, gas seeped through the flowline, that had been severed less than 10 feet from the home’s basement. The gas, which was not odorized, seeped into the French drains of the home, flooding the basement with gas, that the residents couldn’t smell. When two men tried to replace a water heater, it sparked an explosion.

“What happened in Firestone … we’ve never seen before,” HIckenlooper said, in response to a question on whether proposed changes could ensure such an explosion would never happen again. “We’re spending millions of dollars to do everything we can to make sure it never happens again. This is about as close to never as you’re going to get.”

In response to the explosion, the state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission ordered companies to locate, inspect and repair any damaged flowlines in the state. Some companies went a step beyond and abandoned certain flowline practices that led to the explosion and shut off older wells.

But since, there’s been concern on what happens next on a statewide level.

Hickenlooper, in a press conference at the Capitol in Denver, proposed seven changes to existing practice, some which will require simple rulemaking, and others that would require legislation.

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» Turn the recent order for companies to locate and inspect their flowlines into daily practice and eliminate rules that exempt low-pressure flow lines from pressure testing.

» Enhance Colorado’s 811 gas line notification system to include natural gas lines information from the oil and gas industry. Residents will be able to call the line to get specific in formation on gas lines on their property. The line, however, isn’t necessarily set up to allow anyone to call about any property out of curiosity, for example, but Hickenlooper said that is worth looking into.

» Create a state orphan well fund to fund capping off wells that have been abandoned. The state already has a fund, now about $445,000 a year, which would allow for capping of 10 wells. Hickenlooper is suggesting the heavy hitters in the oil and gas industry contribute to this fund to cap these wells, and potentially fund the purchase of home methane detectors for residents.

» Creating legislation to prohibit future domestic gas taps directly into wells on resident properties.

» Create a technical work group to improve safety training within the industry.

» Requesting peer review of some of COGCC rules.

» and explore a pilot program on methane leak detection.

GOVERNOR’S PROPOSALS

» Strengthen the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s flowline regulations.

» Enhance the 8-1-1 “one-call” program by adding oil and gas flowline information.

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

» Prohibit future domestic gas taps.

» Create a technical work group to improve safety training.

» Request peer-review of some COGCC rules

» Explore an ambient methane leak detection pilot program.

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