Feb. 14 (UPI) — New rules on oil and gas infrastructure in Colorado outline comprehensive oversight and follow a review of a fatal explosion last year, the government said.
Two people were left dead and one person was critically injured after a gas explosion in Firestone, a town in Weld County, occurred when non-odorized gas seeped into a residence through an abandoned pipeline in April. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper called for a review of all oil and gas operations, including inspections of any lines within 1,000 feet of an occupied building, after the accident.
New rules derived from a three-month review of the Firestone incident call for dozens of changes for oversight of flowlines, smaller transit arteries that take fluids from wells to tanks or larger pipelines. Regulations now call for integrity testing of flowlines that aren’t in use, among other things.
“Our work with operators last spring and summer to identify, quantify and test all flowlines near residential areas was a significant start,” Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Director Matt Lepore, said in a statement. “These rules – and additional actions ordered by the governor that are still unfolding – continue to keep our focus on this work.”
Anadarko Petroleum, which operated the well in question, responded to the incident by closing down more than 3,000 wells in the county last year. Its industry counterpart, Great Western Oil & Gas Co., followed suit a few days later.
Anadarko’s well was situated about 200 feet away from the home in question. The original well was drilled by a previous operator in 1993, abandoned but still attached to a well.
Hickenlooper’s office later recommended seven policy initiatives ranging from peer-review of the rules established by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to creating a fund to help plug and abandon orphan wells.
In addition to Hickenlooper’s recommendations, the state Department of Public Health and Environment said it would form an alliance with state and federal health administrations and the Colorado Oil and Gas Association to address workplace safety.
“We believe these new rules are another important step in the aftermath of the Firestone tragedy,” the governor said in a statement.
Colorado is rich in shale reserves, accounting for about 4 percent of total U.S. crude oil production. Eleven of the 100 largest natural gas fields in the country are in Colorado.