A Record Number of Spills in Weld County

For the month of January 2024 in Weld County, the ECMC recorded the largest number of oil & gas spills ever; 102 spills altogether. This represents 77.3% of the 132 spills reported for the month across the entire state.

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Permitted vs Spud Wells by County

Now that the “SB24-159 Modifications to Energy & Carbon Management Processes” bill has been introduced in the legislature and is getting some media attention, industry advocates once again say that activists are trying to ban fossil fuel extraction today, right now, no exceptions. In reality, the legislation is meant to slow down and eventually stop the permitting process. Even this will take quite a bit of time.

The Colorado Energy & Carbon Management Commission (ECMC) makes available a daily data download for the visualizations available on the Daily Activity Dashboard. One of the sheets available in the Excel workbook is Spud Data, showing two interesting statistics for each county in Colorado:

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Spill Analysis by Year

In addition to persistently-poor air quality, the immense amount of oil & gas infrastructure present throughout Colorado poses another risk in the form of spills—of oil, methane, and produced water. While the amount of “spilled” methane gas is more difficult to quantify, the Colorado Energy & Carbon Management Commission (ECMC) has done a better job of capturing the quantities of oil and produced water spilled at oil & gas facilities in Colorado. This data is available to download from the ECMC web site, but is poorly presented as a data table PDF that cannot be machine read into Microsoft Excel or other tools for easy analysis.

Can you spot the “analysis?” The amount of oil and water spilled has been expressed as a percent of the total volume of oil and water produced, respectively. At best, it seems that the volume of oil spilled has declined relative to production, but the number of spills have quadrupled over the reporting period! What’s happening?

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ECMC Complaints Analysis

As complicated and difficult as it can be to submit a complaint to the ECMC (fka COGCC) about an air quality, noise, or odor issue at an oil and gas facility in Colorado, the number of complaints lodged with any location is a good measure of the negative impact that oil & gas exploration has in our neighborhoods. With data obtained from the ECMC, here’s a data table showing the sites that logged more than 20 complaints of any kind since 2010.

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How much is 10 million gallons of water?

We’ve seen that modern hydraulic fracturing permanently poisons over 10 million gallons of water per well drilled — it’s a staggeringly large number that is hard to grasp. Here are some comparisons to give you a better idea of “how much” is in 10 million gallons of water.

500 standard swimming pools.
A standard swimming pool holds around 20,000 gallons of water.

6,250,000 toilet flushes.
A typical toilet flush uses 1.6 gallons of water.

138 Colorado homes’ use of water for an entire year.
The EPA estimates each American uses 82 gallons of water a day at home, for a total of 29,200 gallons per year. The average Colorado household size is 2.6 people per family.

9.64 square miles of lawn covered with 1″ of water.
You could cover 6,171 acres, or 9.64 square miles of lawn with 1 inch of water.

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Water usage for Hydraulic Fracturing in Broomfield, Colorado

This visualization shows the amount of water used to frac each of the wells drilled within the municipal boundaries of Broomfield, Colorado since 2017. The data is grouped by operator, with the most recently fracked wells shown first. In total, 848.76 million gallons of water have been used to frac these wells, with a median of 12.57 million gallons of water used to frac each of the 67 wells.

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Water Usage for Hydraulic Fracturing in Erie, Colorado

This visualization shows the amount of water used to frac each of the wells drilled within the municipal boundaries of Erie, Colorado since 2017. The data is grouped by operator, with the most recently fracked wells shown first. In total, 626.48 million gallons of water have been used to frac these wells, with a median of 9.64 million gallons of water used to frac each of the 57 wells.

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How much water does fracking use, Part VI

In Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V of this series, we showed that each hydraulic fractured well permanently poisons millions of gallons of water.

Once again, the Erie community is under assault with the 26-well proposed Draco pad and an additional 18 wells proposed to be drilled at the Coyote Trails pad. Let’s look at the data for the Cosslett East wells, completed in September 2023.

A total of 178,725,812 gallons of water were used to drill these wells, with a median of 13,261,197 gallons per well. This is 18.4% less than the median water use for the original Cosslett wells, but without completion information for these wells (the data is not yet available at the ECMC), it’s not obvious why. For reference, here is a visual representation of the two sets of directional wellbores:

A comparison of the directional wellbores for Cosslett (left) and Cosslett East (right).

Once the completion data for the Cosslett East wells becomes available, we’ll update this analysis.

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