The number of oil spills found in Colorado is increasing as oil companies continue to assess destruction following devastating floods that started September 10. Three new spills were reported September 24 by The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, marking 11 total spills to date. The Commission estimates about 27,000 gallons of oil have spilled- thus far- into several rivers and swamps in the surrounding areas. Meanwhile, oil operators are unclear on how many wells are damaged and to what extent because road conditions and flooding are blocking access to facilities.
The newly discovered spills include more than 5,000 gallons of oil from a Noble Energy facility, 2,500 gallons from a PDC Energy site, and an undetermined volume from a Mineral Resources operation. These spills add to the approximate 21,000 gallons of crude oil spilled by the Anadarko Petroleum Corporation’s facilities that’s already been reported. Anadarko reported on September 18th that 165 barrels leaked into the South Platte River and 323 barrels leaked into the St. Vrain River. Bayswater Exploration and Production LLC also reported nearly 21 barrels of oil also leaked into the Platte River.
There is some light at the end of this oil-filled tunnel. Right after the flooding about 1,900 wells were shut-in, stopping the flow of oil and natural gas to prevent leakage. Since then, a reported 600 wells have been re-opened for operation after being determined safe by oil company officials. Encana Oil & Gas re-opened 52 wells, but continues to shut-in more than 300 as a precaution. “At this point, we have not found any significant spills or releases, but can’t rule out future discoveries until inspections are completed,” Encana spokesman Doug Hock said to National Geographic.
Inspections will carry on as access to damaged plants improves. The Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said nine teams are currently conducting inspections. DNR spokesman, Todd Hartman said in a release to National Geographic, “We’re looking for sheens on the water, damaged equipment, and obvious things such as an oil tank that might be overturned and leaking. We want to get the low-hanging fruit first, and deal with any obvious problems. We’re still in triage mode.” No timetable has been set for how long the inspections will take, nor when operations will return to normal for the region.
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