Trend toward injection wells hikes traffic

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Traffic is likely to be the biggest issue Garfield County officials will face as they deal with an expected increase in the use of injection wells to dispose of fluids associated with natural gas development, a state official said Monday.

Denise Onyskiw of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission spoke to Garfield County commissioners about the growing trend. She heads the underground injection control program for the panel.

The agency’s authority was given by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate such wells. But Onyskiw noted that La Plata County also has its own associated rules that consider traffic, zoning, visual impacts and other concerns.

“The biggest issue surface-wise is the trucks” used to deliver fluids, Onyskiw said.

More than 800 injection wells exist in the state, and about three-quarters are used to inject water and force oil and gas through a formation and into another well, she said. But companies also use injection wells to dispose of fluids, water, spent hydraulic fracturing fluids and other liquids.

Onyskiw said other states aren’t willing to take the fluids anymore.

The state lets fluids be injected only into formations that produce oil and gas, or have water too low in quality or too deep underground to be used for drinking. Fluids are injected below drinking water aquifers, and inspections and tests are conducted to protect those aquifers.

Ken Wonstolen, an attorney for the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, told Garfield commissioners the industry group recognizes that the county has some authority over injection wells’ surface aspects. But he said it believes any county attempt to regulate “downhole” matters involving the wells would be pre-empted by federal rules.

Jon Black, area operations manager for Antero Resources, said the company’s use of pipelines to deliver fluids to two injection wells between Rifle and Silt will reduce traffic impacts.

Injection wells can be operated on a property only with the consent of the landowner.


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