Retired engineer skeptical about WPX spill claims
Post Independent Staff
BATTLEMENT MESA — A retired engineer who serves on the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, and who has been a critic of the regional energy industry, told the Post Independent on Friday that he feels a recent spill of a large volume of “produced water” at facilities owned by WPX Energy is more of a problem for the company than WPX has admitted.
A July 2 spill in the Garfield Creek region of Garfield County put nearly 2,100 gallons (or about 50 barrels) of produced water on the ground at a pipeline complex owned by WPX, about two miles south of the Colorado River.
The spill was in the Kokopelli Field once owned by Orion Energy, before the Orion facilities were bought out by WPX. The spill was blamed on “equipment failure” because a valve gave out during the transfer of produced water from one holding facility to another, according to a report to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).
Produced water is what comes back to the surface after a natural gas well has been hydraulically fractured, or “fracked.” Produced water containes a mix of fracking fluids and numerous compounds, some of them toxic, that are found in the same deep rock formations where the gas and oil is located.
According to statements to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel by WPX spokeswoman Susan Alvillar, the equipment used in the Kokopelli Field was not installed by WPX, but was a holdover from the Orion Energy ownership.
Alvillar did not respond on July 25 to requests for comment from the Post Independent.
But according to retired engineer Bob Arrington, the company should have tested the equipment involved when it purchased the pipelines and other infrastructure from Orion.
“If they accept somebody else’s design,” Arrington wrote in an email to the Post Independent, “they assume the responsibility” for the integrity of the system.
“Just getting it and using it without verifying integrity is negligence in itself,” Arrington continued. “WPX is supposed to have engineers that have the know-how and ability to determine the proper use [of equipment] and problems that can arise.”
Arrington’s email to the Post Independent contained a lengthy, and highly technical description of how he feels the company may have erred in its use of the Kokopelli Field equipment.
Attempts to obtain comments from either Alvillar or the COGCC on July 26 also were not successful, nor were efforts to contact Kirby Wynn, Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison, regarding Arrington’s concerns.
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