As with most in the flood's wake, Weld County's oil and gas operations did not emerge from the flooding without injury �-- prompting many in the field to shut off production until the waters recede.
But it may be awhile before the extent of damage to their infrastructure is known, given they can't get to some of it due to flooding and closed roads.
The good news is that three players -- the two largest with remote ability to shut off wells with the touch of a button -- control the majority of oil and gas operations in Weld. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. has shut off 600 wells; Noble reports 10 percent of its wells are shut down; Encana has shut down 397 wells; and PDC Energy reports it shut down about 130 wells in the floodplain. Smaller players, too, are halting production to keep environmental hazards at bay, though access is limited.
"But as the situation improves, and more information is available, COGCC will be working with state and local authorities, operators and the public to assess risks and, where necessary, provide environmental response and remediation," said Todd Hartman, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, speaking on behalf of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Industry insiders say their equipment is stout and able to hold up in most flooding conditions -- even reaching standards required to withstand hurricanes off-shore.
Tisha Sculler, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, reported to the COGCC commissioners at their monthly meeting on Monday that operators are all committed to keeping up with regular updates on damage and environmental concerns.
"We have operations ranging from unaffected to sitting in standing water, to located in rushing water," Schuller told the commission in a prepared statement. "Companies from the smallest to the largest operators are engaged in around-the-clock assessment, prevention, monitoring and response. All impacted wells have been shut-in, which means the well has been closed off or shut and is not producing any oil and gas product of any kind."
As crews evaluate the damage, they'll be working immediately to solve any potential hazards, Schuller reported.
"The types of activities include continuous monitoring of operations, shutting in wells, evaluating midstream facilities, conducting environmental checklists, aerial surveys, and responding to calls and mitigation of potential hazards as they are identified," Schuller said.
Anadarko has already had to deal with one 3-inch pipeline rupture in Fort Lupton. Officials said Anadarko quickly shut it off, and said the spill was contained within the berm.
"The majority of our drilling, completions and workover activities in the affected areas of the field have been shut down, and restarting the activities is expected to be significantly delayed due to road and location conditions," Anadarko reported in a prepared statement.
Encana spokesman Doug Hock said officials there have heard reports of tanks seen floating amid the floodwaters, but crews were able to determine they were empty. He said crews also worked to chain down tanks, or kept them filled with produced water, to keep them from floating away. "In the case of oil and condensate tanks, we keep those at a fairly low level as a matter of course as we seek to manage our inventory," he said.
Hock said the company also has remote monitoring of all wells and tank batteries and can respond instantly to problems.
"We're doing an environmental assessment, and we've created a spreadsheet to track and assess areas and looking at those that are in areas of most concern, based on flood plain information," Hock said. "We'll be doing a comprehensive inspection and review, and we're keeping the COGCC up to date."
Companies are concerned that continued production would overflow tanks, which could seep out under the pressure.
Ed Holloway, CEO and president of Synergy Resources Corp., an oil and gas exploration company based in Platteville, said his company emerged from the flooding relatively unscathed, with potentially no more than 10 production facilities affected.
"The real impact for us is lot of the berms around the tanks have been washed away, so we'll have to restore those," Holloway said. "And some of the roads are muddied and we'll have to go in and clean that up, but outside of that, it's minimal on the scale of what's happening across the board."
Bill Barrett Corp., whose assets are mainly in northeastern Weld County, reported in a company statement that the company has shut-in four vertical wells.
State officials will be paying close attention to what operators do for mitigation of the flooding damage.
"Industry activities include continuous remote monitoring of operations, shutting in wells to cease oil and gas production, evaluating midstream facilities (gas transportation and processing facilities) and responding to calls and addressing damage as issues are identified and as conditions improve. Operators have also been contributing their personnel and heavy equipment to flood rescue and relief efforts," Hartman reported in the COGCC statement.
Holloway said just like the community came together to help, so too has the oil and gas industry by helping companies shut down operations.
"The industry is really proactive and everyone was helping everybody. Where operators couldn't get into, someone else was shutting in other people's wells," Holloway said. ___