Study affirms newer West Divide seep is ‘naturally occurring’
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – A recurring gas seep in West Divide Creek pointed out by an area resident in 2008 appears to be naturally occurring, an independent consultant hired by Garfield County has affirmed.The latest determination suggests the newer seep is not associated with gas drilling activity, as was one discovered in the same area four years earlier.The 2004 gas seep and related contamination found in a domestic water well was traced to nearby gas wells. That occurrence resulted in a fine and required remediation by the operators of the well, Encana Oil & Gas (USA).The latest report based on an analysis of data gathered by the county, Encana and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is consistent with earlier findings that suggest the remediation efforts have been successful.”Methane gas samples collected in the area of the reported 2008 seep yielded only biogenic [naturally occurring] gas,” Garfield County Oil & Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn reported to the Board of County Commissioners on Monday.Biogenic gas occurs when organic material breaks down and bubbles to the surface, while the “thermogenic” type of gas detected in the 2004 seep is released as a result of drilling activity in deep rock formations.Wynn’s quarterly update of oil and gas activity in Garfield County included an overview of the findings by independent consultant Geoff Thyne. The University of Wyoming geologist was hired by the county last year to study ongoing concerns by West Divide Creek resident Lisa Bracken.Thyne reported that recent testing indicates no presence of “thermogenic” gas, and that the 2004 seep “is on a path toward being remediated.””I think we have reached the point of diminishing returns in terms of expending county resources unless there is a big change,” Thyne reported. “The reality is that the 2004 seep is relatively small, has been remediated as best they can manage, been sampled a lot and had several studies associated with the seep and surrounding area.”But Bracken remains unconvinced until more localized groundwater monitoring is done, which she welcomes the county to do on her property.The 2008 seep emerged around the time new drilling operations began farther to the north of the existing monitoring wells and the 2004 seep, Bracken said in response to Wynn’s report to the BOCC on Monday.Data from those monitoring wells is irrelevant to what’s happening with the newer seep, she said. She also pointed to soil samples taken in the more immediate area of the seep that continue to show evidence of thermogenic gas.”I appreciate what the state and the county have done to date, and I’m not discounting that,” Bracken said. “But I think there has been an effort to try to characterize everything that has happened in Divide Creek based on irrelevant data.”The “missing piece,” she said, is to install a shallow groundwater well on her property. Bracken turned down a previous offer from the state to place a well on her property due to language in the contract, but she said she is still open to doing so.Bracken said it will be increasingly important to continue and expand monitoring efforts as Encana prepares to employ a new type of horizontal fracturing with a set of new proposed well permits currently before the COGCC. Bracken has asked the COGCC to delay the permits until the county can gather more data.Earlier this year, the county agreed to proceed with a larger monitoring effort in the area south of Silt aimed at studying a possible link between natural gas development and methane found in shallow groundwater. The county has contracted with GeoTrans Inc. to complete the third phase of that ongoing study for roughly $95,000. Wynn said in his Monday report that the most recent data from the West Divide Creek monitoring wells also indicates that benzene levels are dropping from previous levels and are now “approaching regulatory limits.” That was determined in findings from the COGCC and affirmed by Thyne’s analysis, he firstname.lastname@example.org
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