Williams hit by second explosion in three days
An explosion and sizable fire struck a Williams Production natural gas well site off Interstate 70 west of Rifle Thursday night, less than three days after a blast and blaze at one of the company’s compressor stations on the other side of the highway.The explosion blew the top of a tank holding a mix of water and petroleum condensates, said Rob Jones, a firefighter with the Rifle Fire Protection District.Tricia Beaver, hearings manager with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said she was told by COGCC field inspector Jaime Adkins that one man was on top of the tank at the time of the blast. However, no one was injured in the incident. Three other contractors were also working at the well site at the time.Jones said the fire was contained to the well tank and no fluid leaked out. The fire was allowed to burn out on its own over about two hours.”There wasn’t a whole lot we were able to do on that grand scale of a fire other than protect life safety. All we really did … was secure the area and let it burn itself out,” he said.The incident occurred around 10 p.m. Thursday on the north side of I-70 at about mile marker 82. The fire occurred in a fracturing, or “frac,” tank. Williams spokesperson Susie Manicom said the tanks are used to store recycled water used during the well fracturing process, which is done after drilling to increase gas flow. The tanks also help minimize the need to do flaring associated with gas drilling.The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Jones said it appears to have been accidental. Beaver said the tank may have had more condensates in it than normal because a separator regulating the condensates malfunctioned due to extreme cold temperatures.The cause of Tuesday’s fire and explosion also remains undetermined. That one, on the south side of I-70 and also west of Rifle, damaged and possibly destroyed a compressor station that collects gas from about 80 wells. It also was allowed to burn itself out after the gas line leading to it was shut down.Both explosions reportedly could be heard at least as far away as Rifle.Jones called it “very unusual” to have two fires within days of each other associated with natural gas development, much less with the same company.”We’ve never really had any problems with Williams in the past. … I think it’s just a coincidence at this point. I don’t think there’s anything to be drastically worried about,” he said.”Any fire is a concern,” Manicom said. “It’s something that we’re going to thoroughly investigate to find out the cause.” She said Williams has reported the fire to the COGCC. Beaver said such incidents must be reported in case the companies violated state regulations.She said it appears at this point that no COGCC violation occurred in either incident. She said the circumstances behind Thursday’s fire may have been out of Williams’ control due to the extreme weather conditions.Beaver said the state sometimes will change its regulations if it sees a problem. She said companies use frac tanks a lot “and this kind of thing never happens.”She, like Jones, isn’t particularly concerned about two Williams fires occurring in such a short time frame. Beaver noted how much gas development is now occurring in Garfield County.”I think it’s just a sign that there’s a lot of activity. I think it’s more a function of that activity level,” she said.
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Colorado Parks and Wildlife is urging anglers to stay off the Roaring Fork River between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs during afternoons beginning Saturday.