EnCana weighs in on contamination in Silt water well
Post Independent Staff
EnCana denied claims it contaminated a Silt water well with hydraulic fracturing fluids, but the company will have to repeat those arguments at a formal hearing.
The gas company presented its case at a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission meeting in Rifle on Monday, July 11.
EnCana engineer Joel Fox and water-well expert Tony Gorody presented information that they said shows hydraulic fracturing fluid could not have entered Laura Amos’ water well.
After Fox’s presentation, commission chairman Peter Mueller asked the COGCC commissioners to leave the room, because they will consider EnCana’s testimony in the matter at an official hearing in October.
“This is a matter of enforcement action … and I feel uncomfortable as a commissioner to see this information come out at this point. So I’m asking the commissioners to leave,” Mueller said. The commissioners then left the meeting.
Amos contends that fracturing chemicals from four wells drilled in 2001 near her house in Silt contaminated her water well. She believes one particular fracturing chemical, 2-BE, caused a rare adrenal gland tumor doctors diagnosed her with in 2003.
The COGCC staff has recommended fining EnCana for contaminating the Amos well with gas produced from its wells; however, it agreed with EnCana’s position that the Amos well shows no signs of fracturing fluid chemicals associated with natural-gas production.
In his presentation at the COGCC meeting last week, Fox said there was no indication that fracturing fluid had leaked from the well bores into the Amos well.
He also pointed out that the Amos water well is southwest of the EnCana wells, and gas in that area tends to release along natural fracture planes in the Williams Fork Formation that trend northwest by southeast.
Further, a layer of shale above the Williams Fork acts as an impermeable barrier between it and the Wasatch Formation, the source of most drinking water for residents south of the Colorado River in Silt.
COGCC notified EnCana last month that it could face fines for an alleged connection between its gas wells and thermogenic ” or production-type ” gas in the Dietrich and Amos water wells south of Silt. According to a Notice of Hearing that COGCC issued in June, continued sampling of both wells has shown that production gas is still contaminating them. COGCC also “fingerprinted” the gas in both wells by chemical analysis, and found it is similar to the gas coming from particular EnCana wells near those homes.
EnCana was fined $371,000 in August 2004 in a related case, a natural-gas seep in and around West Divide Creek south of Silt.
At last week’s COGCC meeting, Gorody, a Houston-based water-well expert, reviewed water-sampling data from the Amos well and concluded that water samples have shown no signs of fracturing fluids. Further, Amos well samples were tested for toxic compounds known as BTEX ” benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, constituents of production gas known to be carcinogenic ” and none were found.
Amos also contends her well erupted in a geyser during fracturing at the EnCana wells, blowing its cover off. However, Gorody said if that had indeed been the case the blowout produced by gas from a depth of more than 5,500 feet would have “been an uncontrollable geyser that would not stop.”
Gorody also said that thermogenic gas produced from the Williams Fork Formation contaminated the Amos well.
“Whatever the explanation for what went on in this water well … it’s not frac’ing fluids, it’s something else,” Gorody said. “I have a story for that, but not for today.”
Contacted by phone Monday, Gorody said he cannot address what is actually contaminating the Amos well.
“I’ve been asked to defer the gas issue until the (COGCC) hearing,” he said. “It’s a simple explanation, so stay tuned.”
Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 510
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