Initial state review finds diesel used in 65 wells since 1950s

An initial state review has found that diesel fuel or fluid containing it was used for hydraulic fracturing of at least 65 oil and gas wells in Colorado since the 1950s.

However, the review to date only goes a limited ways in accounting for the 1.3 million gallons of fluids containing diesel fuel that the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee says were used in fracturing of wells in the state from 2005 to 2009.

The preliminary Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission investigation also determined the use of the fuel in and of itself doesn’t violate state rules.

Commission staff initiated the investigation after the House committee report found more than 32 million gallons of diesel fuel or fluid mixes containing at least 30 percent of the fuel had been injected underground from 2005 to 2009 in states including Colorado.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, and two other House Democrats said the fuel was used without Environmental Protection Agency permits in apparent violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. That agency says it is working to clarify requirements for use of diesel fuel, which is regulated by the act.

In a memo, Colorado Oil and Gas Commission staff say that while the commission requires a permit for the underground disposal of fluids, the staff members don’t consider the requirement to apply to fracturing fluids.

“Nor did the Environmental Protection Agency … advise the Commission that it should require such a permit for hydraulic fracturing involving diesel fuel,” the staff memo says.

However, a rule violation would occur “if this activity resulted in a significant adverse environmental impact to water, soil, or biological resources,” the memo states.

State regulators say they haven’t found evidence of domestic water contamination by diesel fuel or hydraulic fracturing in general.

The House committee said because of confidentiality promises to companies, it isn’t revealing details of diesel-fuel use. Colorado doesn’t regularly require disclosure of fracturing-fluid contents but can do so if a specific health concern arises.

However, some companies have reported diesel use voluntarily in reports about geological-formation treatments.

As a result, the state confirmed diesel fuel was used in five wells in the 1950s, 13 wells in the 1960s, six in the 1970s, 29 in the 1980s, four in the 1990s, and seven in the last decade. It was used once in 2010 for a well, but not for hydraulic fracturing.

During the period of the House committee review, at a time when more than 10,000 wells were drilled in the state, diesel-fuel use was confirmed for two wells in 2005 and two for 2007. That accounted for 66,000 gallons versus the 1.3 million in the House committee report.

Because many companies didn’t voluntarily report diesel-fuel use, commission staff members are contacting them in hopes of getting more complete information.


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