Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Millions of Gallons of Frack and Drilling Fluids Spilled in Colorado over Past 2 1/2 Years

Gas and oil companies reported almost 1,000 spills to Colorado regulators over the past 2 1/2 years, reports Burt Hubbard of the Denver Post. The spills - some 5.2 million gallons of drilling liquids and oil - ranged from small valve leaks to thousands of barrels of contaminated water from faulty pits.

What leaked? Of the 981 company-reported spills, formation-produced water (brine) and frack fluid used in drilling accounted for nearly half - 461 - and about 85 percent (106,000 barrels) of the amount spilled. The 319 oil spills accounted for only 6,500 barrels of the total spilled.

One hundred eighty-two spills impacted groundwater, 82 contaminated surface water, and another 10 impacted both groundwater and surface water. While drillers in Garfield County reported about a quarter of the total spills (236), they accounted for the highest volume of material spilled - some 66,386 barrels, mostly drilling liquids and water used in natural-gas exploration. So far, Colorado officials have levied only two fines, totaling nearly $650,000. Both were against Oxy USA in 2008 for contamination of two springs near Parachute caused by leaks from pits containing drilling wastewater and hydrocarbons from oil and gas. State investigators found elevated levels of benzene in the springs.

David Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said many of the spills are small with no real environmental impact, while the state requires remediation for spills that affect the ground and water sources. "Our reporting requirements are very low," he said.

Companies are not required to publicly disclose the mix of chemicals used in frack fluids. But, Neslin added, Colorado's new regulations went into effect last year, and they require that companies disclose the content of frack fluids in spills if the state asks. 

Neslin said the state has concentrated its efforts on new rules designed to minimize the impact of spills. For example, keeping drilling operations farther from water sources and people.


  1. OGAP also details lots of spills between 2002-06:

    "OGAP has reviewed and summarized data on Colorado oil and gas industry spills that took place between June 2002 and June 2006. The major findings were that there were approximately 924 spills during that time period, 20% of which affected either groundwater or surface water."

  2. This information is so compelling! Since the information originated from the industry itself, it is all the more powerful.