Hearing continued on injection well | PostIndependent.com

Hearing continued on injection well

Ryan Hoffman

PARACHUTE — Battlement Mesa and Parachute residents will have another opportunity Monday to weigh in on a proposed wastewater injection well before an expected vote on the application by the Garfield County commissioners.

Commissioners continued a public hearing on the matter earlier this week after gathering input from concerned residents and officials from Ursa Resources Group, the operator proposing the well.

The project calls for an injection well on an existing well pad, referred to as the Watson B Pad, about 1.5 miles south of Battlement Mesa. The injection well would serve seven of Ursa’s well pads in the area, as well as the Watson B Pad.

If approved, the well would significantly reduce traffic in the area, said Robert Bleil, regulatory and environmental manager for Ursa. Pipelines would transport the wastewater from three of those pads. Wastewater from the other pads would be transported via truck, although Bleil told commissioners that Ursa hopes to connect all of its production facilities to injection wells via pipeline.

The potential traffic reduction did not quell some residents’ concerns over potential seismic activity — which several officials said would be unlikely — induced by the injection well.

Referencing a surge in seismic activity in Oklahoma, Bob Arrington, Battlement Mesa citizen representative to the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, called the potential for seismic activity an “unknown factor.”

Commissioners heard similar statements in July 2014 when they approved a different injection well, also operated by Ursa, near Battlement Mesa.

The Battlement Mesa Concerned Citizens group appealed that permit on the condition that seismic activity be monitored and operations halted if unusual activity was detected. The organization submitted a letter earlier this month calling for similar monitoring of the proposed injection well.

That letter also recommended that the county consider locating a seismic monitoring station in the area that would be part of a regional seismic network maintained by Colorado Mesa University.

Rick Aster, professor of geophysics at Colorado State University, made a similar suggestion at the June Garfield County Energy Advisory Board meeting.

“There’s been absolutely no indication that there’s any induced seismicity in this area,” said Aster. However, increased monitoring helps guide effective policies, he added.

According to Bleil, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission considers seismic activity when it conducts its review of proposed injection wells.

With no faults within five miles of the injection site, significant seismic activity induced by the well is unlikely, said Duke Cooley, senior geologist for Ursa. The company would be injecting at a rate below the established fracture gradient so the wastewater would not cause fissures in the injection zone, he added.

Seismic activity aside, the proposed injection well’s close proximity to residences is a concern, said Dave Devanney, chair of the Battlement Mesa Concerned Citizens, referencing a fire at a wastewater injection well in Weld County. In April, a lightning bolt struck a water storage tank, causing a series of explosions and a fire, the Greeley Tribune reported.

“It’s an issue that’s not very comforting to people who live in the area,” Devanney said of injection wells.

The well is already drilled and the COGCC has already completed a significant amount of its review, said Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa. Still, injection likely would not start until the fall of 2015, assuming the application is approved.

“There has to be a lot of testing before we get the green light,” said Simpson, adding that the COGCC will continue assessing the well once it is operational.

The continued hearing is set for the commissioners meeting Monday at the county administration building in Glenwood Springs.

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