Extraction Changes Drilling Mud After COGCC Responds to Complaints

The City and County of Broomfield (CCOB) just announced, “In response to ongoing odor issues, Extraction has agreed to utilize a synthetic drilling mud, Neoflo 4633, prior to initiating drilling of the second well at the Livingston Pad. This drilling fluid is currently in use by another oil and gas operator in the DJ Basin. As a synthetic drilling mud, there are physical properties that differ from hydrocarbon-based drilling mud, like Gibson D822.”

Gibson D822 drilling mud was used at the Interchange B Pad from April 18 to the end of June to drill 12 wells.  During that time, residents living near that pad filed numerous complaints about the odorous chemical release which caused both short-term health impacts and long-term carcinogenic concerns.  Many residents and Broomfield community leaders made public comments at City Council and talked to Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) officials during that period.  In a June 5 written response to CCOB Staff, Extraction claimed that Gibson D822 “hasn’t been correlated to any instance of odor” and CCOB reported to residents that the odor was the result of normal drilling activity.

Extraction started using Gibson D822 at the Livingston Pad on July 5.  Many complaints started pouring in from Anthem Ranch, Anthem Highlands and Wildgrass about the offensive odor and its health impacts which caused people to have to stay indoors with closed windows.  Many impacted residents attended and spoke about the drilling mud during public comments at the July 9 Council meeting.  At the end of public comments, Mayor Ahrens stated that Extraction was checking into using a different drilling mud.  

Before the Council meeting, local community leaders had contacted COGCC Director Jeff Robbins who then reached out to Extraction and sent COGCC inspectors to the site.  Extraction confirmed to them that Gibson D822 was the source of the odor.  Extraction then agreed to cease drilling until they can secure Neoflo 4633 to drill the second well.

The City’s entire announcement states,

“In response to ongoing odor issues, Extraction has agreed to utilize a synthetic drilling mud, Neoflo 4633, prior to initiating drilling of the second well at the Livingston Pad. This drilling fluid is currently in use by another oil and gas operator in the DJ Basin. As a synthetic drilling mud, there are physical properties that differ from hydrocarbon-based drilling mud, like Gibson D822. Some of these differences are outlined below:

1. Neoflo does not contain BTEX or any polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

2. The flashpoint is slightly lower than the D822. Neoflo has a flashpoint of 185 degrees Fahrenheit while D822 is 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Flashpoint is the temperature at which a particular material gives off sufficient vapor to ignite in air when an external ignition source if introduced.
  • The SDS included the flammability rating of Neoflo as a category 4. Under the OSHA Global Harmonization System Standard, a
    category 4 flammable liquid is the lowest hazard ranking. The rankings go from 1-4 with 1 signifying the highest hazard and 4 the lowest.

3. The auto-ignition temperature of Neoflo is 410 degrees Fahrenheit. D822 is slightly lower at 397 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • The auto-ignition temperature is the lowest temperature at which it spontaneously ignites in normal atmosphere without an external source of ignition.
  • This is an important consideration in establishing safety protocols.
  • Neoflo is unlikely to present issues associated with auto-ignition temperatures since the auto ignition temperature of
    Neoflo is 410 degrees Fahrenheit and the maximum temperatures during drilling is approximately 250 degrees Fahrenheit (at the bottom of the borehole) and approximately 115 degrees Fahrenheit at the surface.

4. Extraction uses safety protocols to address other considerations associated with electrostatic charges when using Neoflo or other drilling fluids. These include:

  • Grounding and bonding of pumps and other equipment used to move the fluid
  • Hot work procedures to eliminate ignition sources

5. In order to provide adequate ventilation, Extraction has modified the design of the sound walls to include openings for air to circulate, and in some cases, to provide egress for workers.

6. In order to control the possibility of Neoflo (or any other chemicals/materials) contaminating surface water, there are numerous storm water and other requirements that prevent the introduction of materials to surface waters. This includes berming and other engineered controls.

Extraction has committed to continuing to evaluate drilling fluids that address odor and operational issues.”