Black smoke and flare stacks

This week Tod and I both had conversations with Garfield County Oil & Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn. On Wednesday (9/19), I emailed Kirby to ask about the plumes of black smoke on the ridge every morning near BBC’s flare stack. He emailed back that he was on his way to Silt and wanted to meet with me. But I was babysitting my grandson and couldn’t get away. So Tod met with him instead. It was during our email exchange and his meeting with Tod when Kirby verified the flare stack we are seeing in operation most of the time is on the Dixon pad and belongs to BBC (see Part 1:  Antero is NOT flaring).

These were two in-depth conversations. Tod spent almost an hour with Kirby on Wednesday. They went up to Cemetery Hill to view the gas patch through binoculars. The fire smoke haze, which is coming from wildfires in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, made for poor visibility. Kirby then called me on Thursday (9/20) to clarify a few more things and we talked for about 40 minutes.

We covered a lot of ground. Tod and I appreciate Kirby taking the time to get us information and hear our concerns. I can’t possibly cover everything in one post. I will probably get some things right and some things wrong. I began with setting the record straight on who owns what flare (Antero is NOT flaring). In this post we cover black smoke and flare stacks.

First of all here is the view from Cemetery Hill (taken 9/20). This is the area south of Silt that Tod and Kirby Wynn viewed from Cemetery Hill – Silt’s gas patch.

Below is an enlarged photo of the Dixon pad. In the photo above the pad is situated on the ridge to the right of the rig. The rig is on Antero’s well pad. Antero is NOT flaring. The tallest structure in the photo is not the flare stack. I don’t know what it is. The flare stack is on the right – obscured by a brown structure and fire smoke haze.

Black smoke from the Dixon pad
BBC is currently fracking on the Dixon pad. The black smoke is coming from the diesel engines starting up on the mobile fracking unit. They run the diesels for an hour or two each day, not sure exactly. I don’t sit there and watch. I usually walk my dogs at Dogland around 10:00 a.m. The smoke and diesel fumes hang in the air during that time of the morning.

Flare stacks
The flare stack on the Dixon pad is owned by BBC. Again, according to BBC’s Jim Felton they are only flaring 4-5 times a month. What have we observed? More like 4-5 times per week, at least. Felton says they should be done by the end of October.

Kirby said the purpose of flaring during the fracking process is for the transition to a salable gas flow (sale line). As the wastewater and lower pressure gases escape they can’t be sold down line so they are dispersed by flaring, usually for about 4 hours at a time. He said in terms of emissions, flaring is better than venting.

In the past month, I have seen two other stacks flaring in the area shown in the photo below. If you look at the first photo this is the area to the left of the big butte.

Kirby said he doesn’t know of any other companies flaring in this area south of Silt. I have seen two separate flares in this area at different times in the past month. However it has been two weeks since I have seen either of those flares. Kirby said it’s possible there were fracking and flaring operations on some well pads in that general area and now they’re done. Seems like I would have noticed them before the month of August. All that matters is I’m not seeing them anymore.

He told Tod the big tan building on the ridge is part of the Bailey Compressor Station. The compressor station is owned by BBC and was placed into service in July 2008, beginning with one compressor, now they have four.

I emailed Jim Felton on Friday (9/21) and asked if they are flaring at the Bailey Compressor Station. Felton replied:  “What we have at Bailey is a combustor — a combustor is not a flare. Combustors are a back up system to a vapor recovery unit that runs 24-7.  Both consume any vapors that might be emitted from the tanks or other equipment at the compressor station; both are permanent installations. Because of the very low volumes of such vapors going to the tank battery, it’s highly unlikely that a flame from the combustor is visible from even a few hundred yards for any extended period of time.”

As I said to Kirby, “With all this drilling activity going on so close to residential areas and the town, people can see what’s going on and they’re bound to ask questions.” He agreed and said he is happy to field those questions. If anyone else has any questions they’d like to ask Kirby Wynn his email is:  kwynn@garfield-county.com
Or feel free to send them to me:  peggyt@siltnet.net

Part 3:  Air quality in Silt

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