Updated Extraction Timeline Suspends Drilling at Four Sites, Prompting Questions

On Monday afternoon, 12/30/2019, the Broomfield City Council received an updated project schedule from Extraction by way of city staff, which was promptly posted online for citizen access. It is assumed the document was provided to city staff directly by Extraction, though it is unclear at this time if it was shared with any additional information. The updated plan finishes drilling at Northwest A pad, which has already been partially drilled, by February. Drilling for Northwest B, United, and Interchange A have all been labeled with the following language: “A notice will be provided for resumption of drilling activities.” 

This new schedule poses more questions than answers from both citizens and council members, most notably why Extraction is halting operations at four of the six pads as well as when operations will resume. At the time this article was written, there is no known additional detail allowing Broomfield city council members, staff, or citizens to understand what has prompted the change. A recent news release, published on the oil and gas industry site
Oil and Gas 360, announced that the law firm Hagens Berman is investigating Extraction for improper accounting and possible securities fraud, but there is no indication these project plan changes are related at this time. National news coverage and oil and gas trade publications alike have  pointed to a lag in investor confidence and slowdown in the shale industry from late summer through to the close of Q4, but it is also impossible to determine if these trends have had any material impact on Extraction’s timeline and proposed schedule for Broomfield operations.

This ambiguous new project plan brings with it questions about what residents should expect in the upcoming year, specifically:

Sound Walls
If the operation is paused for months, a year, or more, are the sound walls considered “equipment” under the Operator’s Agreement (OA)? If yes, the OA BMP 35 states that equipment used for drilling operations cannot be stored on the pad. Does this mean that sound walls may need to be removed for XOG to avoid another breach of contract?

The air quality monitoring (AQM) contract needs to be renewed annually, but if it’s unclear which sites are operating when, then this contract will be difficult if not impossible for the City and County of Broomfield to negotiate and solidify. The lack of clarity on the project plan certainly complicates this very important aspect of protecting the health and safety of Broomfield residents. The cost already spent on air and noise monitoring, which city manager Jennifer Hoffman puts close to $4 million, is also significant to the taxpayers with a hefty price tag on the upcoming monitoring of an additional $3 million. How will Broomfield continue to monitor the air quality effectively if they don’t know the project schedule?

Flowback  Schedule and Other Details Now Missing
Another significant change in the project schedule is the lack of sub-task timelines, most notably the breakdown of exactly when flowback will occur at the project’s most densely populated residential pad, Livingston. In previous versions of the plan, the flowback phase was clearly delineated, giving residents a sense of when this phase — the phase most often associated with the most dangerous levels of chemical release and exposure — would be taking place. Instead, now the timeline simply says, “Current frac operations forecasted to be finished around the end of February.” For families and individuals planning on leaving the area to protect their own health and safety during flowback, this poses a new level of complication on residents. This is in addition to other known impacts, including sound levels recorded above agreed-upon thresholds, odors and chemical fume exposure experienced by residents, and numerous health impacts, including eye and lung damage. 

Truncated Plan that Extends only to 2020
It’s also worth noting that while previous versions of the project plan reached well into 2020 — December of 2021, to be exact — this project plan reaches only to the end of the current year, 2020. There are clear implications to having an unclear project plan that lacks detail and description from the operator, most notably for residents considering the sale of their homes or relocation due to these activities.

Plugging and Abandonment
Extraction’s commitment to the proper plugging and abandoning of legacy wells is also an area of question and concern.  Extraction heavily leveraged this commitment in the “sales pitch” that XOG made to the city of Broomfield at the inception of the project. The clean-up operations promised 38 legacy sites would be addressed. The schedule now only accounts for plugging and abandoning a small portion of those wells, and the fate of the rest of the legacy wells is uncertain. Leaks already identified by Extraction during the plugging and abandonment of legacy operations in Broomfield have included those discovered at Nordstrom, Fedorowicz and Brozovich.

While some residents may be pleased to see operations at several of the sites appearing to cease, the lack of communication with the city staff and city council and the failure of Extraction to provide a more detailed explanation of the modified schedule leave many questions as to what lies ahead.

Broomfield Concerned is reaching out to the city and will continue reporting on updates if and when they become available. If you have questions of your own about how this change in project schedule will affect you and our community, please reach out to the city council by emailing them at council@broomfieldcitycouncil.org and city staff directly. You should consider addressing city council and staff directly at the Special Meeting of the city council that is currently scheduled on 1/7/2020 with a space for citizen comments towards the beginning, but please check the upcoming meetings and events page before attending as meeting agendas do sometimes change.