Soil tests and groundwater samples indicate there was little to no contamination after a damaged oil and gas well north of Windsor sent 84,000 gallons of hydraulic fracturing fluid spewing horizontally for 30 hours earlier this month.
PDC Energy on Wednesday filed its comprehensive incident report with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission — protocol for all situations involving damaged wells. While the COGCC continues its investigation and determines what, if any, enforcement action to take, the report sheds new light on what happened and the environmental impacts stemming from the Feb. 11 incident.
The event itself was not inherently caused by fracking but by a “mechanical failure” that caused equipment to fall and hit the well head, damaging the master valve handle while shearing the tubing hangar locking pin, the report indicates.
The well was “spud” on Dec. 20 and was fracked weeks before the mechanical failure sent greenish “flow-back fluid” shooting from the damaged port.
Windsor-Severance Fire Rescue immediately responded to the situation and stayed on scene throughout the event at the company’s request.
When it became clear a quick shut-off wouldn’t be possible, company officials constructed a dirt recovery trench and containment pit to collect the fluids. About six vacuum trucks and five mobile tanks ultimately captured the liquid, which was mostly water, mixed with some oil and fracking additives, according to the report. Fluids were then moved off-site.
In total, 40 soil samples were collected during and after the incident. Results indicated contamination was below state standards, the report indicates. Crews also excavated 18 inches of nearby soil after the well was capped at 4 p.m. Feb. 12. A second plug was later set to ensure containment.
The nearest body of surface water was about 1,800 feet away, and the shallowest groundwater in the area was 15 feet below the surface. Tests indicate it was not affected. Crews also monitored air quality for any “explosive” qualities, though none was reportedly found. The nearest home was 1,500 feet from the well.