Add One More Safety Concern Based on Extraction Berthoud Accident

Extraction’s horizontal well drilling near the area of an improperly plugged well caused a spill on October 29 in Berthoud, CO, according to a March 8 article in the Reporter-Herald based on a newly published COGCC accident report last week.  The Extraction well was actually over 3000 feet away from the accident site, where a surprised landowner found chemical-laden drilling mud and small amounts of oil and gas bubbling up through a welded cap onto his pasture and driveway.  Currently, the State (COGCC ) only reviews requests to drill within 1500 feet of an old well.  The October 24 MOU between the City and Extraction calls for Extraction to check the plugging of old wells within 1320 feet of their well bores before they are drilled.  (You can read the entirety of provision #36 in the MOU here.)

There are many abandoned wells in Anthem Ranch, Anthem Highlands, Wildgrass and The Broadlands that would be near the Livingston Pad (see details below).  Therefore, the cause of this accident adds yet another safety concern to the list of those that the City and Broomfield residents should call to the attention of the COGCC in their comments on the Extraction drilling permits.  (Please see instructions on submitting comments before April 1 here.)   Many Broomfield residents previously noted their objections that the cause of the Dec. 22 Extraction Windsor accident has not been determined yet Extraction is being allowed to move forward with the permitting process for their Broomfield pad sites.

According to the COGCC report, the pressure caused by the Berthoud well that Extraction drilled on April 2017 through the Niobrara Formation caused the spill of about 300 barrels of drilling mud, gas and oil.  The well bore was perpendicular to a well which was plugged in 1984 with only one layer of cement instead of four layers that were required by the COGCC.  COGCC records “falsely indicated” that the well had been plugged with four layers.  The COGCC stated that they changed procedures sometime in the 1990s to ensure proper plugging.  COGCC engineering manager Stuart Ellsworth also noted another “oddity” about the situation.  There were actually other wells drilled much closer to the plugged well that didn’t cause the spill, but the Extraction well over 3000 feet away did.

On October 29, the fire department immediately created dirt berms to contain the spill and Extraction arrived with special vacuum trucks.  Colorado taxpayers paid for the COGCC to plug the well over twelve days since the original company no longer exists.

Here is a map of abandoned wells in the Broomfield area on the COGCC website, including wells in Anthem Ranch, Anthem Highlands, Wildgrass and The Broadlands near the Livingston Pad.   Abandoned wells have white circles with cross bars.  Abandoned locations have white circles with diagonal slashes and were never drilled.  There are additional wells that are producing, but they are not shown on this map.  Extraction plans to abandon most (if not all) of the producing wells in their spacing units.  Crestone is not proposing to abandon producing wells in its spacing units.

You can read the entire COGCC accident report here. We emailed Todd Hartman at the COGCC to get it.