COGCC lifts drilling moratorium south of Silt
EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) will be allowed to drill for natural gas within a two-mile moratorium area around a gas seep near Silt.The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) lifted the moratorium Monday after EnCana filed a request to be allowed to drill there.In 2004, EnCana was fined a record $371,000 for a faulty well that leaked gas into West Divide Creek. The seep was found to contain a carcinogenic chemical – benzene – within the gas leaking from a natural geologic fault that intersected the production area on an EnCana well.Benzene continues to occur in the seep itself. EnCana continues to treat contaminated groundwater around the seep.The COGCC imposed new cementing rules throughout the Mamm Creek area to ensure wells are properly sealed to prevent gas from rising up the well bore. Last summer the COGCC allowed Bill Barrett Corp. to drill up to 20 wells within the moratorium area.In lifting the moratorium, the COGCC also established an area three-and-three-quarter-miles long by one-mile wide extending from the seep in a northwesterly direction where operators will have to take special precautions.”The (COGCC) staff determined (part) of East Mamm Creek … very likely has a subsurface fault trend through that area,” said COGCC director Brian Macke. “The staff recommended allowing drilling to go on but have added drill requirements” in the fault area.A hydrogeological study commissioned by the Garfield County Commissioners last year revealed that the area around the Divide and Dry Hollow creeks have numerous natural and deep-seated faults that could present a challenge to operators to keep the gas within its intended pathways.Operators will be allowed to run only one drilling rig and drill no more than five wells at a time, Macke added. If they can demonstrate there were no problems with gas leakage they can then request approval from the COGCC to add a second rig, but can use no more than two.They will also be required to conduct tests to determine the strength of underlying rock formation and seal the well pipe with cement casing “to provide protection for that weaker interval” if found, Macke said.As EnCana and Bill Barrett are the only operators at present in the Mamm Creek field, that will mean only four rigs will be operating there at one time, Macke added.”We feel we can operate within those (restrictions),” said EnCana spokesman Doug Hock.He said the company plans to drill 18 wells in what was the moratorium area this year. EnCana will also fracture the well that caused the gas seepage.”We were never able to complete it” after the seep was detected, Hock said.
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