Congressional report may overstate use of diesel fuel in well fracturing, official says

Results so far in an investigation into the use of diesel fuel in hydraulic fracturing in Colorado oil and gas wells indicate it may have been employed less than indicated in a recent congressional report.

David Neslin, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, recently told the commission that he hopes to be able to provide a more complete assessment in a month. While emphasizing that the investigation is not complete, he said the agency’s investigation to date suggests less of the fuel may have been used in wells in the state between 2005-2009 than the 1.3 million gallons the House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce says were used.

Nationwide, 12 energy-service companies used about 32.2 million gallons of diesel fuel or fluids containing the fuel during that period, the committee said. The House committee isn’t revealing details of its report because of confidentiality agreements with companies. As a result, Colorado regulators are seeking that information from companies and reviewing existing state records for information that some companies previously disclosed about diesel-fuel use in fracturing in certain geological formations.

The state’s initial review found diesel fuel was used to fracture at least 65 wells since the 1950s, including in four wells from 2005–09.

To date, oil and gas commission staff found records documenting 66,575 gallons of diesel fuel or fluids containing the fuel that were used in that time period.

Seven of the 12 service companies that were the focus of the House committee report told state regulators they didn’t hydraulically fracture any wells in Colorado from 2005–09. One said it used 741 gallons of diesel fuel or fluids in 11 wells in the state over that time period, and another reported it used 500 gallons but hasn’t yet specified in how many wells.

Two other companies indicated they used diesel fuel but still are compiling information. A fifth company is expected to provide information shortly.

Regulators also contacted 15 of the largest oil and gas developers in the state. Nine said diesel fuel wasn’t used in their wells from 2005–09, and one said 10,084 gallons of products containing diesel fuel were used in nine Colorado wells during that period, but that it no longer uses such products.

The five other companies still are reviewing their records.

Neslin said the investigation’s findings appear to back up the comments of his agency to the House committee that use of diesel fuel in fracturing in the state is rare.

Regulators plan to use the information to look at nearby water wells for possible effects, but Neslin said he doesn’t expect them to find any because of drilling rules designed to protect domestic groundwater.


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