Ursa flaring activity around Silt

Okay, here’s a re-cap. Last week well flares popped up all over Silt Mesa and in Peach Valley. By the end of the week we were all like, WTF? I posted photos of the flaring on the Pretti (Fenno A) pad on February 15, and the next day (2/16) Ursa VP Don Simpson told us in the comments section of a different post that Ursa is responsible for the well flaring on Silt Mesa and Peach Valley, and by the end of the day he provided a general flaring schedule:  Updates from Ursa.

Let’s back track a little bit. At the close of 2012, Ursa Resources purchased Antero’s assets in the Piceance Basin and formed Ursa Piceance, LLC (Denver). So, for the most part, you can forget about Antero – except for BLM leases – then it’s more like Antero/Ursa. Antero is just somebody that we used to know. Ursa is the new operator in town.

With the help of friends, family, and photographers I have compiled a report and photos to bring you up-to-date on what we know so far.

Tod Tibbetts talked to GarCo Oil & Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn on February 18, about the flaring Ursa is doing on Silt Mesa wells. Tibbetts asked Wynn if he was the “local government representative” that flaring activity was reported to and if Ursa had reported the flaring last week and this week on the four wells on Silt Mesa/Peach Valley. Wynn said he is the person flaring activity does get reported to and Ursa had given him a schedule of flaring activity. Tibbetts was in transit through the airport during their phone conversation so he wasn’t able to take notes of the dates, but he said they seemed to coincide with the flaring activities we noticed last week.

Apparently this type of information is only announced at EAB meetings? Or by asking Kirby Wynn? There is no other way to alert Silt area residents about well flaring activities?

Tibbetts also asked Wynn whether operators are allowed to flare continuously, around-the-clock. Wynn said the county follows the State regulations for flaring and he wasn’t aware of any restrictions on the amount of time a well could be flared.

On February 17, Tibbetts contacted Chris Canfield, the COGCC’s Northwest Region Environmental Protection Specialist in the Rifle office. He left a message on his voice mail asking who flaring reports go to and if he knew if Ursa had filed the appropriate reports on the recent flaring activity. David Andrews, the West Region Engineering Supervisor for the COGCC’s Rifle office returned his call on February 18. Andrews said Ursa was doing “maintenance” flaring which did not require any filing with the COGCC.  He added that, as a courtesy, Ursa had contacted him and the local government about their activity.

Wait a minute. So while we were all scrambling to find out what the hell was going on, the town of Silt knew all along? Did they tell anybody? I didn’t see or hear anything. So nice of them to keep us informed. What’s the big secret?

Tibbetts also asked Andrews if there had been any H2S release reports from the wells on Silt Mesa. Tibbetts reports: “[Andrews] put me on hold to check the records. He came back on line and said there were no H2S reports on those wells. He asked me the purpose of my call and if I was a media person or a property owner. I said I was a property owner in the town of Silt, noticed fouls air over the weekend, saw the flaring activity and wanted to know if the new operator in town was following proper procedure. He said they were because it was maintenance flaring they were not required to file any reports. He asked me if I wanted to file a complaint. I declined and said if they are not violating the COGCC rules, what good would a complaint do?”

According to Tibbetts, the way he interprets the COGCC rules on venting/flaring, they don’t actually regulate it all.

Silt resident Steve King spoke with Burning Mountains Fire Marshal Orrin Moon on February 20 about the well flaring activities in the area. King reported what Moon told him:  “No, the department was not informed of the flaring. Yes, he [Moon] was thankful for the information. No, there are no fines imposed. There are two pads up on the Mesa not currently connected [to pipelines] and that is why the recent flares. Maintenance crews burned off gases for safety precautions prior to working on the pipeline.”

I’m not quite sure what Fire Marshal Moon meant by that last statement. If there are no pipelines on Silt Mesa – and there aren’t – then how would they be “working on the pipeline”? No one has reported any pipeline construction. Perhaps he misspoke.

The four photos below identify three well pads on Silt Mesa and one in Peach Valley where activity has been or is occurring. These wells were drilled and fracked by Antero in 2010 and have been inactive since 2011. Ursa has resumed activity at these well pads in the past couple weeks.

Diemoz Pad – Silt Mesa – located on Harvey Gap Road
Photo taken on February 12, 2013

Diemoz pad 2-12-13 The rig and burners you see in this photo were gone by Saturday, February 16. No activity has been observed on this pad since then.

The two black cylinders in the photo are low nox burners. Notice the lack of flame. Low nox burners are a means of reducing emissions during venting/flaring. As you will see in the photos of the next three well pads, Ursa is using flares – not low nox burners – at those well pads. What’s the difference between those three pads and the Diemoz pad? Due west of the Diemoz pad, in full sight of the pad, is a house owned by a State Patrol officer. Coincidence? Or courtesy?

Pretti Pad (Fenno A pad) – Silt Mesa – located on CR 228 (Pretti Lane) above Eagle’s View subdivision (7th Street)
Photo taken on February 14, 2013

Pretti pad 2-14-13Three Siblings Pad – Silt Mesa – located off Peach Valley Road, south of Bendetti Road and north of Mesa View subdivision
Photo taken on February 19, 2013

Three siblings pad 2-19-13Maeves Pad – Peach Valley – Slaughter Gulch
Photo taken on February 18, 2013

Maeves pad 2-18-13Thank you to my friends, family, and photographers – named and unnamed – for your contributions to this post. Send information and photos to:  peggyt@siltnet.net

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