CSU air study on pace for 2015 completion
Despite a drop in natural gas drilling activity in Garfield County during the first two years of a three-year Colorado State University air emissions study, progress has been made and the project is on pace to be completed by the end of this year, according to the lead researcher for the study.
“We have had some challenges to overcome, mostly due to the fact that the amount of new well activity has decreased,” Jeffrey Collett, head of the CSU Atmospheric Science Department, informed Garfield County commissioners on Tuesday.
That has meant a reduced number of new drilling sites in the county to select from to conduct experiments for the study, Collett said in his biannual progress report to the commissioners.
Some of the new wells that have been drilled are also not as conducive for testing due to the topography, he said.
“That has slowed the gathering of field measurements some from what we had hoped to have,” Collett said.
Still, 16 of the planned 24 field experiments near well sites during the drilling, fracking and flowback stages of the operation have been conducted to date, he said.
The $1.8 million study is being paid for with $1 million from the county and $700,000 so far in pledged industry support. It is designed to test for toxic substances, ozone precursors and methane emissions close to well sites and down wind during the initial drilling and fracking process before a well is in production.
Working with three operators, Encana, WPX and Ursa, researchers with CSU will continue work on the study throughout this year. A final report is expected by December, Collett said.
The goal for this year is to finish all 24 emission characterizations that were planned to complete the study, he said.
Once completed and reviewed by the project’s technical team, the study is also to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, Collett said.
As agreed to when the study began, data collected during the course of the project will not be released publicly until the final report. The one exception would be if something truly alarming were detected that could immediately affect public health, project officials said when the study began.
County commissioners on Tuesday agreed to extend the agreement for the final year, and to make available the county’s remaining financial obligation to help complete the study.
“This is a very important study … one that’s based on science,” commission Chairman John Martin said. “It’s the only way to get answers to the questions people have, and to be honest with the public and industry.”
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