Oil, gas panel to revisit concerns about seep in water south of Silt

Concerns about renewed development in the area of a 2004 natural gas seep south of Silt probably will be aired before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this spring.

Acting Director Dave Neslin said he anticipates an update with the commission on drilling in the West Divide Creek area. One purpose would be to give residents a chance to voice any concerns.

However, Neslin reiterated his belief that renewed drilling in the area would be safe.

After natural gas from an EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) well bubbled to the surface of West Divide Creek in 2004, the commission fined the company $371,200 and imposed a moratorium on drilling in the area, where underground geological faulting has contributed to drilling problems.

The commission lifted the moratorium after putting new drilling rules in place for better water protection.

But area resident Lisa Bracken wants the moratorium imposed again in at least part of the area, and she contends the rules need to be re-examined.

Bracken and at least one neighbor, Jim Eubanks, are worried about an incident in January, when groundwater flowed from a well EnCana was drilling.

EnCana and the state say the leak originated about 1,000 feet down, well below the deepest water wells in the vicinity. It was stopped before drilling had reached the well’s gas-
producing zones.

EnCana also experienced a “kick” of high gas pressure with that well and late last year with another well in the area, state officials said. But they say both situations were controlled and posed no threat to residents or water.

The Oil and Gas Conservation Commission also reports EnCana experienced a recent problem installing surface casing for another well. Surface casing is intended to protect shallow water aquifers. In the case of that well and the one that leaked water, the agency granted EnCana variances from standard requirements.  EnCana said the alternative measures were adequate.

Bracken contends gas from drilling is leaking to the surface at her property. Commission staff say numerous tests show any surface methane is biological in origin.

The agency and EnCana dispute Bracken’s contention that recent tests by an EnCana consultant showed that gas from drilling has been found in groundwater monitoring wells.

Commission staff say the confusion resulted from a consultant error that later was corrected, but Bracken believes that’s not the case for all the tests.

Bracken notes that differences of opinion exist about how to interpret data. Late last year, Geoffrey Thyne, a geological consultant for Garfield County, said increasing drilling south of
Silt and Rifle is resulting in more gas showing up in domestic water wells, particularly in the Divide Creek area.

He said some gas that state officials are blaming on biological sources is in fact coming from drilling.

Neslin said his staff will look at Thyne’s report and that commissioner Richard Alward, a professional ecologist, will speak to Bracken.


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