West Divide Seep still bubbling, resident claims | PostIndependent.com

West Divide Seep still bubbling, resident claims

John ColsonPost Independent staffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

A West Divide Creek resident plans to tell the Garfield County commissioners on Monday that a notorious “seep” related to gas drilling in her neighborhood is still bubbling up in the creek.Lisa Bracken, who lives near the site of the West Divide Seep, told the Post Independent that new data appears to show that the gases seeping into the creek are “thermogenic” in nature, meaning they form in deeply buried rock layers.The West Divide Seep, which appeared in 2004, bubbled to the surface of the creek as a result of a failed cement casing in a nearby gas well, according to state regulators. The well was operated by EnCana Oil & Gas (USA).But remedial efforts to patch the cement job in the well, ordered by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, have not stopped the seeps, Bracken maintains.She reported in 2008 that she found evidence of a new seep. Industry experts and the COGCC argued that this gas seep was “biogenic” in nature, meaning the gas bubbles come from the breakdown of organic materials near the surface of the earth.According to Bracken, tests conducted recently by EnCana have shown the gases to be “thermogenic,” meaning they are created deep in the earth, close to where natural gas deposits are extracted by wells.The tests, she said, indicate the presence of methane and related chemicals that historically have been accepted as thermogenic indicators.In a letter to EnCana evaluating the test results, consulting geologist Anthony Gorody disagreed. Gorody concluded that the methane and other chemicals are biogenic, and believed to be similar to “swamp gas.””Without seeing the actual sampling results she’s talking about, it’s difficult to say” whether Bracken’s conclusions are warranted, said EnCana spokesman Doug Hock.He said there have been results that might indicate thermogenic methane is present, but the results aren’t conclusive.”To my knowledge … we haven’t found anything that would indicate it’s from a producing well, from one of our producing wells,” Hock said.Bracken also told the Post Independent that EnCana’s recent sampling results have shown the presence of diesel residue in the seep. Bracken takes that to mean diesel fuel was once used by area gas drilling companies.The samples, she said, were taken by EnCana personnel as part of an ongoing, state-ordered effort to keep an eye on the seep.Federal officials recently announced that a year-long study of gas drilling information revealed that drilling companies had been using diesel fuel in the process know as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”The procedure involves the injection of huge quantities of water, sand or other particles, and chemical additives into a well under high pressure. The fluids break up deeply buried rock formations, making it easier for oil and gas to flow to the surface.The industry has acknowledged using diesel fuel, which is hazardous to human health, in fracking fluids in the past.But industry representatives have denied using diesel fuel in fracking fluids in recent years.And Colorado regulators have said they have found few instances in Colorado where diesel was used by the oil and gas industry, and none of them were in Garfield County.Bracken said the sampling results give her cause to doubt those claims.Hock said a 2009 internal audit concluded that EnCana was not using diesel fuel in its fracking fluids at that point, and it is not being used now.”In the past, I don’t know,” he conceded.Bracken plans to ask the Board of County Commissioners to “press the state to have a monitor well put in” to check for contamination from the surrounding gas wells.She said there are approximately 60 wells within a mile of her property, and she is worried that plumes of contamination may be headed for her domestic water well.In addition to the monitoring well, Bracken wants the commissioners to bring in geologist Geoffrey Thyne to check recent sampling results from EnCana.Thyne, who works for the University of Wyoming, was hired to study the 2004 West Divide Seep, and has been intermittently involved in subsequent investigations into the industry’s activities.jcolson@postindependent.com

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