Nearby frack job investigated in leak at well

State oil and gas personnel are trying to determine whether hydraulic fracturing of a horizontal well outside De Beque is responsible for water and gas flowing from a non-producing vertical well a half-mile away.

Todd Hartman, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources, said fluid at the surface has been captured in a trench and contained in a pit on site.

“No surface waters have been impacted and the nearest known water well is roughly six miles away. (Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) personnel will be working to determine any potential impact on groundwater,” he said.

“COGCC is investigating the possibility the hydraulic stimulation of the horizontal wellbore communicated with the vertical wellbore.”

He said Black Hills Exploration & Production was doing the horizontal drilling and fracturing operation on Bureau of Land Management property. Its well reached about 6,000 feet deep and the fracking was done within the last few weeks. The vertical well, owned by Maralex Resources Inc., is 7,300 feet and was drilled in 1981. It hasn’t produced for many years, Hartman said.

He said COGCC field inspection personnel were on the site Monday and more, including environmental specialists and engineers, would be arriving Tuesday to determine what happened and assess and remediate any impacts. The agency is collecting water samples as part of its investigation. Representatives with both companies also are involved in the investigation.

Horizontal drilling involves drilling down and then out horizontally to follow geological formations. The practice has taken off as companies have combined it with hydraulic fracturing to successfully produce significant quantities of oil and gas.

The practice also has led to some concerns about the possibility of impacting pre-existing vertical wells that may not be designed to withstand the kind of pressure associated with the fracking, which involves pumping fluids into a formation to create cracks and foster oil and gas flow. In October, Encana said its fracking of a horizontal well in New Mexico may have been responsible for releases of fluid from a nearby vertical well, according to a report by KRQE in Albuquerque.



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