Berry Petroleum allegedly responsible for spills |

Berry Petroleum allegedly responsible for spills

Phillip Yates
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

PARACHUTE ” Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission records reveal that Berry Petroleum Co. allegedly failed to tell the state of two releases of fluids from a reserve pit on private lands of the Roan Plateau. The company also reportedly did not alert the landowner about the releases, according to the agency’s records.

A COGCC “Notice of Alleged Violation” (NOAV) said that Berry notified the agency about a release of an unknown volume of drilling fluids from a reserve pit on Jan. 22.

“Berry Petroleum subsequently described a series of three releases from that pit, and the operator’s resulting countermeasures, including at least two unsuccessful attempts (prior to Jan. 19) to repair the pit, construction of a sump to intercept and recover some of fluids, and environmental sampling,” according to the NOAV.

The NOAV said the dates of discovery for each of those three releases were Nov. 28, Dec. 19 and Jan. 19.

“The subject releases have impacted state waters in tributary to Garden Gulch and currently threaten to impact Garden Gulch,” the NOAV said. “Prior to (Jan. 22), Berry Petroleum had not notified the (National Response Center), the COGCC and the (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Control Division). Berry Petroleum did not notify and consult with the surface owner as required.”

The identity of the surface owner of where those three spills occurred was not immediately known late Friday.

“Subsequent to the time this alleged violation was posted, Berry met with the (COGCC director) and staff and supplied additional information,” said Todd Crabtree, a company spokesman, in a prepared statement. “Berry looks forward to working with the commission to address their concerns and corrections of statement in the posting. In fact, all corrective actions listed in the (NOAV) have been either commenced or completed already.”

According to the NOAV report, Berry is required to file a “spill/release” report for each release and consult with surface owners, including those located along Garden Gulch above Parachute Creek. It also is requiring that the company consult with the DOW on assessing impacts to trout habitat in Garden Gulch.

The COGCC is investigating the three Berry releases, along with another one in the Garden Gulch area northwest of Parachute. Those four spills occurred on private lands on the Roan Plateau from November to late January.

Marathon Oil Co. said earlier this week that it was responsible for one 30,000-barrel release of water ” rather than industrial drilling mud, as was initially reported by the COGCC ” from a storage pit on Jan. 31. Chevron is the owner of the surface and the minerals where the spill occurred, according to a Marathon spokesman.

The COGCC, in its announcement of its investigation, said Marathon notified the agency of the release immediately. The agency has declined to name the companies involved in the four spills, but it is withholding 80 permit applications in the Garden Gulch area until the matter is resolved.

There are at least two other NOAVs listed for Berry Petroleum Co. in the state last year, according to COGCC records. In one, it was alleged the company had a reserve pit present even though wells had been producing for a year. In another, it was alleged that one pit was less than one foot from overflowing. Those allegations were resolved Sept. 24, 2007, according to COGCC records.

The company’s response

Another statement released by Berry on Thursday said the company “recognizes the need to promptly report to the commission all releases from well sites.”

In Thursday’s prepared statement about the spills, Berry said company officials have met with the COGCC to discuss the remediation of a reserve pit near Garden Gulch.

According to the company, company staff observed “fluid flow away from the location of the well pad.” The company statement seemed to refer to only one release.

“An investigation into the source of the water identified two potential sources ” a spring in the area as well as a reserve pit,” the statement said. “Ultimately, the reserve pit was determined to be contributing to the flow.”

The company said no drilling muds were placed into the pit or released into the environment, but trace amounts of other drilling additives were identified away from the pit.

“These concentrations were below drinking water standards,” the statement said.

The total combined flow from the company’s reserve pit and the spring has been estimated to be 2,500 barrels of water and sediment. The company said it resulted in no “significant environmental damage.”

Berry said workers replaced the reserve pit liner, and that the company will conduct additional sampling away from the well site throughout the spring runoff.

“The company worked diligently to investigate and remedy this situation, and will continue to fully cooperate with the commission,” according to the statement.

Randy Hampton, a spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, said the agency is in communication with the involved companies and the landowner, and it is working on arranging DOW access and monitoring “in regard to the stream in Garden Gulch and Parachute Creek itself.”

“The monitoring we are seeking would consist of fish sampling, both now and throughout the spring during runoff to determine any impacts,” Hampton said.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

Post Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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