GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Researchers with Colorado State University are nearing the end of the first year of a three-year study looking at air emissions around natural gas wells in Garfield County.
Though still fairly early in the study, some measurements have already been taken at selected well sites around the county, Jeffrey Collett, a researcher with CSU’s Atmospheric Science Department who is heading up the study, said in a report to Garfield County commissioners this week.
To date, no urgent public health concerns that would require immediate reporting have been noted, he said.
A provision of the county’s $1 million contract with CSU to conduct the study calls for any immediate health concerns to be reported to public health officials.
“We have not needed to take that kind of action as a result of our work so far,” Collett said when questioned by county officials on that point.
Garfield County is the primary sponsor of the $1.76 million university study to measure what types of emissions can be found in the vicinity of natural gas drilling operations and evaluate their impacts. Four industry sponsors have pledged $200,000 each to the project, Collett said.
Much of the effort so far has involved personnel training, equipment acquisition, installation and testing, including plume tracking field tests at the Christman natural gas field near Fort Collins.
“These tests improve field tracer measurements, allow model testing, and help assess measurement uncertainty,” Collett said in his Monday presentation to county officials.
CSU also participated in the Encana-sponsored energy expo in May, which gave the research team an opportunity to interact with the public and explain the project, he said.
Additional field emission studies will be conducted at undisclosed well sites in Garfield County later this month and again in November, Collett said.
The field studies include air monitoring canisters, a mobile tracer measurement device mounted on a vehicle, an on-site weather station and a mobile lab that records real-time measurements, he explained.
“We use hybrid vehicles so that we can make sure we are not measuring our own exhaust,” Collett said.
The project’s technical advisory committee will meet in November or December to review the work done so far. Next year and into 2015, field studies will continue with regular site measurements, data analysis, modeling studies and regular status reports to the project sponsors and technical committee.
One concern is whether drilling activity in Garfield County will be maintained at a level over the next two years to complete the study.
“There is enough activity in suitable topography that we can continue to go forward for now,” Collett said.
Project completion is on track for fall of 2015, including publication in a peer-review journal, a final study report and a public presentation of the study’s findings, Collett said.
A follow-up progress report will be given to the county in another six months, he said.