Williams building gas drilling pad in Parachute | PostIndependent.com

Williams building gas drilling pad in Parachute

John ColsonPost Independent staffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Williams Production is building a gas drilling pad inside the boundaries of Parachute in western Garfield County, the first pad to operate within the town boundaries.The company expects to drill a total of 15 wells from the pad starting in May, a Williams official said, and to have the wells completed and the land reclaimed by October.Town administrator Bob Knight said the work began a couple of weeks ago on land owned by the T&T Development Co., which ultimately has plans to use the property for a commercial development.”We’re well pleased” with the company’s efforts to work with the town and keep the residents informed about the project, Knight said.The site is across from the intersection of Battlement Parkway [County Road 300] and Cardinal Way, on an empty area of flats adjacent to the Colorado River.Knight said residents have voiced concerns about impacts to wildlife at the site, but added that as far as he knows there is no wildlife to speak of at that particular spot along the Colorado River.”Once upon a time there was an eagle roosting in a really big tree,” he said, referring to a tall cottonwood near the site of the pad.But a couple of years ago, he continued, “a really big windstorm came along and knocked down that tree, and the eagle moved on.”He said residents also expressed concerns about nesting great blue herons that some have reported seeing in the area, but which he cannot recall ever seeing.Mike Porras, public information officer for the Colorado Division of Wildlife [DOW] said the agency has signed a mitigation agreement with Williams concerning the possible reappearance of the bald eagle, or any other species of wildlife that might warrant DOW intervention.”If the eagle appears again, they know what to do,” Porras remarked.Williams has been working closely with the town, Knight said, holding numerous meetings with officials and with the public beginning last year and concluding with an open house in January, before construction began on the pad.The company’s plans, Knight said, include construction of a berm around the pad to contain any runoff or spills that might occur.In addition, he said, the company is using a completely closed-loop system for its drilling and hydraulic fracturing fluids, which involves the use of tanks to store produced water and fracking fluids.With this system, officials have said, Williams avoids the need for lined evaporative pits adjacent to the drilling rigs, which might emit noxious fumes into the neighborhood.By not using storage pits, Williams also avoids having to deal with potentially contaminated pit liners that must be trucked to special waste disposal sites.Susan Alvillar, a spokeswoman for Williams, said a novel aspect of the operations at the Parachute pad is a system for treating the “cuttings,” or bits of rock that come out of a well along with the drilling mud.By removing the cuttings, drying and storing them, Alvillar said, the company avoids having to create a “cuttings trench” next to the drilling rig which later must be tested and then filled in according to state rules.Instead, she said, Williams tests the cuttings for residues of volatile organic compounds and other potentially toxic substances before storing them.When all 15 wells have been drilled and completed, perhaps as early as October, the company will then use the cuttings to recontour the land, Alvillar said.Once that is done, she continued, the company plans to reapply topsoil that also is to be stored elsewhere, and then to seed and mulch the ground.”We’re hoping that pad will be reclaimed by next winter,” Alvillar said.In addition to the meetings with local groups and the government, Alvillar said, Williams is planning to put up a billboard inviting the public to call with questions.”We certainly realize that this location is a very, very visible one,” she explained, so the company is taking extra pains to keep communications open with local residents.jcolson@postindependent.com

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