EnCana faces July hearing
EnCana is on the hot seat once again. The company, one of the largest natural-gas developers in Garfield County, faces a hearing before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for allegedly contaminating two water wells in near Silt.The COGCC staff recommended EnCana be fined for allegedly violating state water quality regulations as well as COGCC rules. EnCana was fined $371,000 in August 2004 in a related case, a natural-gas seep in and around West Divide Creek. COGCC found the seep was caused by production gas leaking from wells on EnCana’s P3 pad.COGCC will hold a public hearing at 10 a.m. July 11 at the Garfield County fairgrounds in Rifle. It will then decide on the amount of a fine, if any, to impose on EnCana, said COGCC hearings manager Tricia Beaver.EnCana has received a series of “Notices of Alleged Violation” from COGCC, which have proposed a connection between its gas wells and thermogenic – or production-type – gas found in the Dietrich and Amos/Walker water wells south of Silt. According to the Notice of Hearing issued by COGCC two weeks ago, continued sampling of both wells has shown that production gas is still contaminating them. COGCC also “fingerprinted” the gas in the Dietrich and Amos/Walker wells by chemical analysis, and it is similar to the gas coming from particular EnCana wells near those homes.Monday, the Garfield County Commissioners decided to formally intervene in the COGCC case against EnCana.”We’re intervening in order to be in the information loop. We may be perfectly comfortable with the proposed fine or settlement,” said County Commissioner Larry McCown. “I don’t think we will suggest a fine, but we will recommend it be utilized locally.”Under COGCC rules, a local government may intervene in a violation action to raise concerns about environmental impacts, or public health and safety, Beaver said. Individuals or nongovernmental groups may also intervene.Laura Amos, whose well was contaminated with production gas, said she intends to file with the COGCC as an intervenor. Amos contends that fracturing constituents from a well on a nearby gas drilling pad contaminated her domestic well. She also contends that a particular fracturing component, 2-BE, caused her to contract a rare adrenal gland tumor. EnCana spokeswoman Florence Murphy said the company is cooperating with the COGCC.”This part of an ongoing process. We’re been working with the COGCC. I don’t think there’s anything new here,” she said. “With respect to the Amoses, intermittently since 2001 we’ve been providing them with water and constantly in 2004. We’re very concerned about Laura (Amos) and continually work with her as well.”However, COGCC said water samples taken from the Amos/Walker well show no signs of fracturing fluids or other toxic chemicals associated with natural gas production.”Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX), frac fluid constituents, or other oil and gas related contaminants have never been detected in any of the water samples collected from the Amos/Walker water well to date,” COGCC staff said in a Notice of Hearing on EnCana’s alleged violations issued June 10.Thermogenic or production gas was found in water samples from the Dietrich well in April and March of 2003. EnCana purchased the Dietrich property in June 2004.On Sept. 28, 2004, COGCC issued a “Notice of Alleged Violation” to EnCana “for failure to adequately cement one or more of the wells on the P3 well pad.”Bradenhead pressures measured at the well head also indicated gas was escaping from the Williams Fork Formation, the source of production gas in the area, into the casing and into the Wasatch Formation, source of drinking water for area residents.Under normal conditions, production gas is confined to the formation where it occurs with cementing of the well bore. If cementing is incomplete, the presence of bradenhead pressure indicates gas leakage. On Oct. 4, 2004, three small gas seeps were found on the east side of the former Dietrich property, and again that gas was found to be similar to the P3 well gas. Four days later, COGCC issued a NOAV to EnCana and required a remediation plan and to “further investigate, monitor and mitigate the water well impact.”Sampling of the Dietrich well continued and on May 20, bradenhead pressure was found in a well on the P3 pad.Wells alleged to be connected to the contamination of the Amos/Walker water well were originally drilled between Jan. 19 and Mar. 16, 2001, by Ballard Petroleum.On April 30, 2001, COGCC received a complaint from Harland Walker, co-owner of Amos/Walker well, saying the well was contaminated by gas from wells on the nearby G33 pad. “Mr. Walker complained that his well had begun to produce smelly, dark gray, ‘fizzing’ water and that the amount of water that the well could produce had decreased,” the COGCC Notice of Hearing said. On May 1, 2001, COGCC received complaint from Larry Amos saying, “the well cap had blown off and that gray fizzy water gushed from the well.”The wells changed hands over time, with EnCana taking over operation in June 2002. COGCC staff investigated both complaints with site inspections, measuring bradenhead pressures, water and gas sampling and analysis.Remedial work continued, and included venting of the gas. However, last month, two of the wells on the G33 pad had bradenhead pressure indicative of production gas leaking into the well casing.Amos said she disagrees with COGCC’s finding that fracturing fluid was not responsible for the contamination of her well.”I don’t agree. Many people don’t agree with how they are trying to dismiss the frac’ing idea. It’s not surprising, but they’re finally saying methane is contaminating (the well),” she said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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