A “Minor Incident” at the Northwest A Pad Reminds Nearby Residents of Explosion Risks

According to the recent City of Broomfield oil and gas update, there was a fire at the Northwest A Pad on November 9th. This fire was reported as a “minor incident” and was put out by field crews with a handheld extinguisher. Extraction noted that this fire was not related to equipment malfunctions. They described the incident as debris (a paper air filter) catching fire. Extraction is investigating the root cause of this incident. It is important to note nearby residents were not notified that there was a fire on-site and no public notices were shared about this event. In addition, Broomfield Staff did not inform the City Council in any public oil and gas updates that this incident occurred. Details of this event were only shared by a brief description of the event that was included in a regular operations update.

The incident at the Northwest A Pad is the second fire reported at an Extraction site in the past week.  A more significant fire, just south of Loveland, was much larger and required the intervention of the local fire department. According to a news report, three oil separators caught fire. Because of the “high pressure nature of the area involved” the fire department could not put out the fire with water and did what they could to keep the “equipment cool” until they received a supply of fire suppressant foam.

These two recent fires linger in the shadow of more catastrophic events that occurred several years ago.

In June 2018, there was an incident at the Milkshake Pad near Windsor which resulted in three injuries. This incident was reported as “a small explosion -which involved no fire- related to liquid nitrogen.” This resulted in a pressurized hose breaking loose. An accident report filed by Extraction described this incident as a contract worker being involved in “an OSHA reportable event as a result of a compromised bypass hose.”

In December of 2017, there was a large explosion at the Stromberger Pad in Windsor. An investigative report which delved into what happened during this explosion painted a scene of “chaos on the verge of catastrophe.“ This report shows the severity of what happened during this explosion while highlighting how much worse this incident could have been for residents that lived within one mile of this site. Ernie Bouldin, who was a supervisor at the site said, “the workers’ quick action helped avoid the worst-case scenario.”  Without their quick actions shutting everything down, Bouldin said, “It could’ve been like an atomic bomb going off.” While no official root cause has been reported for this event, the report speaks to an investigation by a 3rd party that found leaks in piping. These leaks may have resulted in gases being “trapped close to the ground by an inversion of cold air.” This report also investigated what could have sparked this explosion and hypothesized that a faulty generator with “two pipes scraping together, a bit of static from a fleece jacket — provided that spark.”

Meanwhile, the incident at the Northwest A Pad was more than just a small spark; it was a small fire. Luckily, this time, there were no gasses nearby to ignite. With cold weather inversions just around the corner, which the Front Range has in spades, and flammable gasses located on-site, nearby residents can’t help but wonder…is this issue really “minor” as it is being portrayed? Or was it simply luck that this fire occurred when conditions were not ripe for an explosion?

As always, if you have concerns you want to share on this topic with Broomfield’s City Council, please send them to council@broomfieldcitycouncil.org.