Gas storage field is safe, firm says

The utility company pursuing a compressor-station upgrade near Carbondale says the underground gas storage field it would serve is in good condition.

Black Hills Energy officials responded Wednesday to concerns from the Carbondale-based conservation group Wilderness Workshop that the addition of a new compressor at the compressor station could lead to leaks and other problems at the Wolf Creek storage field in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs.

Wilderness Workshop notes that some of the wells date back to the 1960s. The group cites problems at the storage field including a 2009 fire at one well, what are considered historical leaks found in 2013, and emissions from surface equipment documented via an infrared video camera last summer. It says its concerns are heightened by the 2015 Aliso Canyon gas storage field leak in California that forced the evacuation of thousands of residents.

Wilderness Workshop has filed a notice of plans to appeal the Bureau of Land Management’s approval of a new compressor at the station. The upgrade would let Black Hills double the station’s daily compression capability during injection seasons to 14 million cubic feet of gas.

Black Hills spokesperson Carly West said Wednesday the company undertakes continuous monitoring, maintenance and improvements to its compressor and storage infrastructure. She said while the storage area has been around for a while “the technology up there is brand new.”

The wellheads at Wolf Creek are state of the art, with the last wellhead being upgraded last year, she said.

Upgrades include valves that shut off automatically when heat is sensed and equipment allowing wells to be remotely monitored and shut in.

Mitch Pebley, a senior operations manager for Black Hills subsidiary Rocky Mountain Natural Gas, said the new compressor won’t result in an increase in the amount of gas being stored in the field. Rather, it will increase the speed at which gas can be sent to the field for storage and pulled from it to meet system demand from areas such as the Roaring Fork Valley. That can allow for things like the ability to inject gas more quickly on a warm winter day, before gas has to be withdrawn again with the next cold spell to meet increased demand.

The maximum operating pressure of the station and the storage field will remain around 1,300 pounds per square inch.

Wilderness Workshop attorney Peter Hart questions improving compression capability and presumed system pressures even within maximum allowable levels. He said increased compression seemingly would make the kind of emissions documented in last summer’s video footage worse.

“I’m not convinced that our questions have been resolved here, so hopefully we’ll have additional conversations with Black Hills and the BLM,” he said.

Hart says the video was shot by the group Earthworks. West said Black Hills can’t speak to the emissions footage because the company only recent saw it and can’t verify its source, but the company does regular leak detection monitoring and repair.

Said Pebley, “Our biggest concern is to make sure we don’t have an Aliso Canyon effect.”

He said Black Hills does annual work to ensure that wells are safe downhole as well. He said wells have downhole safety valves and Black Hills does wireline surveys to check well casing.
Pebley said the compressor project probably will cost around $2.5 million.

Wilderness Workshop attorney Peter Hart questions improving compression capability and presumed system pressures even within maximum allowable levels. He said increased compression seemingly would make the kind of emissions documented in last summer’s video footage worse.

“I’m not convinced that our questions have been resolved here, so hopefully we’ll have additional conversations with Black Hills and the BLM,” he said.

Hart says the video was shot by the group Earthworks. West said Black Hills can’t speak to the emissions footage because the company only recent saw it and can’t verify its source, but the company does regular leak detection monitoring and repair.

Said Pebley, “Our biggest concern is to make sure we don’t have an Aliso Canyon effect.”

He said Black Hills does annual work to ensure that wells are safe downhole as well. He said wells have downhole safety valves and Black Hills does wireline surveys to check well casing.
Pebley said the compressor project probably will cost around $2.5 million.


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