Firm fined $7,000 for drilling violation

Whiting Oil & Gas Corp. has agreed to pay a $7,000 fine for drilling on a well pad it had moved without state permission.

The agreement between the company and staff members of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is subject to review by the commission, which will consider it in mid-January.

The agreement says Whiting began drilling seven wells in 2008 without a valid permit on a well pad in the Sulphur Creek area off Piceance Creek southwest of Meeker.

It says the offense involves the construction of the pad at a location different from where it had been permitted. Whiting told the state it moved the pad because of the proximity of power lines.

The company said it wasn’t aware it had shifted to a different quarter section of land. It said it will better track location shifts in the future by having survey plats made showing original and moved well-pad sites.

Regulators say Whiting hasn’t had any subsequent violations that involved operating without a valid permit.

State rules allow for a permit violation fine of $1,000 per day, with a total not to exceed $10,000 unless the violation results in a significant waste of oil and gas, damage to related property rights, or impact to the public health, safety or welfare or the environment.

The state says none of those things occurred, and the negotiated penalty amount reflects that the violation was a onetime occurrence and Whiting has a history of compliance with state requirements.

Last month, the commission fined Noble Energy $2,500 for starting to drill a Garfield County well without a permit.

It penalized ExxonMobil Oil Corp. $1,500 for the same violation in Rio Blanco County.

Both cases involved oversights that were reported by the companies.


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