State left holding bag in Delta well case

A state agency has fined a company $200,000 for violations involving four oil and gas wells in Delta County, but it doesn’t expect to collect the money and says it also will be stuck with the cost of properly shutting in the wells.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission this week imposed the fine against Colorado-based Aspen Operating LLC. The agency says the company temporarily abandoned the wells without its permission and failed to perform mechanical integrity tests on them. The wells were drilled in 2006.

Rob Willis, enforcement officer for the commission, said company officials are indicating it has no assets. Aspen Operating had sought to find another company willing to take over the wells but wasn’t successful.

Making matters worse, commission staff made the “improvident” decision of agreeing to the release of a bond that had been under a different entity’s name but was associated with the wells, Willis said. As a result, the agency expects to have to cover a cost that could run $15,000 per well to properly plug and abandon them, he said.

Aspen Operating representatives could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the commission this week agreed to a settlement with Grynberg Petroleum Co. in which the company was fined $65,000 for violations involving pits at two wells in Moffat County. Some of the violations involved liners in disrepair, oil on the pit surfaces and fluid on the ground.

A representative for the company told the state the production engineer overseeing the wells being drilled died, and confusion regarding the wells’ oversight arose when a replacement was hired and then left a year or so later.

Inspectors discovered the violations in 2009. Grynberg Petroleum is continuing to clean up and reclaim the pit sites.


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