Finding fault with Ursa’s new injection well

Bob Arrington submitted this USGS map screen capture. Bob says: “This area is an area marked as ‘unmapped bedrocks.’ However they have mapped some major fault lines in that bedrock. See black dashed lines.” Click on image to enlarge. [Source: USGS National Geologic Map Database]

Bob Arrington submitted this USGS map screen capture. Bob says: “This area is an area marked as ‘unmapped bedrocks.’ However they have mapped some major fault lines in that bedrock. See black dashed lines.” Click on image to enlarge. [Source: USGS National Geologic Map Database]

At Monday’s BOCC meeting there was a discussion about the potential for a permanent air monitoring station in Battlement Mesa due to increased drilling activities inside the PUD (planned unit development) by Ursa Resources. A public hearing was also held regarding Ursa Resources application for an injection well located on Gardner Lane about one and a half miles south of Battlement Mesa. This will be Ursa’s second injection well near Battlement Mesa.

In July 2014, the BOCC approved the permit for Ursa’s first injection well in spite of an appeal from members of Battlement Mesa Concerned Citizens. Last year the group asked for the county to conduct seismic monitoring and to halt operations if any unusual seismic activity occurred. The county approved the injection well without seismic monitoring. And in December they took the residents’ air quality monitor away from them.

At Monday’s hearing, the Battlement Mesa Concerned Citizens voiced the same concerns as last year and again requested seismic monitoring. Commissioners delayed their decision on the permit application until the June 22 meeting.

I don’t know whether the Commissioners decided to install a permanent air monitoring station at Battlement Mesa. There is no video replay available of these segments of the meeting.

Two news articles provide recaps of the public hearing [emphasis added]:

Public hearing continued on injection well
By Ryan Hoffman

PARACHUTE — Battlement Mesa and Parachute residents will have another opportunity June 22 to weigh in on a proposed wastewater injection well before an expected vote on the application by the Garfield County commissioners.

Commissioners continued a public hearing on the matter Monday after gathering input from concerned residents and officials from Ursa Resources Group, the operator proposing the well.

The project calls for an injection well on an existing well pad, referred to as the Watson B Pad, about 1.5 miles south of Battlement Mesa. The injection well would serve seven of Ursa’s well pads in the area, as well as the Watson B Pad.

If approved, the well would significantly reduce traffic in the area, said Robert Bleil, regulatory and environmental manager for Ursa. Pipelines would transport the wastewater from three of those pads. Wastewater from the other pads would be transported via truck, although Bleil told commissioners that Ursa hopes to connect all of its production facilities to injection wells via pipeline.

The potential traffic reduction did not quell some residents’ concerns over potential seismic activity — which several officials said would be unlikely — induced by the injection well.

Referencing a surge in seismic activity in Oklahoma, Bob Arrington, Battlement Mesa citizen representative to the Garfield County Energy Advisory Board, called the potential for seismic activity an “unknown factor.” [see map above]

Commissioners heard similar statements in July 2014 when they approved a different injection well, also operated by Ursa, near Battlement Mesa.

The Battlement Mesa Concerned Citizens group appealed that permit on the condition that seismic activity be monitored and operations halted if unusual activity was detected. The organization submitted a letter earlier this month calling for similar monitoring of the proposed injection well.

That letter also recommended that the county consider locating a seismic monitoring station in the area that would be part of a regional seismic network maintained by Colorado Mesa University.

Rick Aster, professor of geophysics at Colorado State University, made a similar suggestion at the June Garfield County Energy Advisory Board meeting.

“There’s been absolutely no indication that there’s any induced seismicity in this area,” said Aster. However, increased monitoring helps guide effective policies, he added.

According to Bleil, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission considers seismic activity when it conducts its review of proposed injection wells.

With no faults within five miles of the injection site, significant seismic activity induced by the well is unlikely, said Duke Cooley, senior geologist for Ursa. The company would be injecting at a rate below the established fracture gradient so the wastewater would not cause fissures in the injection zone, he added.

Seismic activity aside, the proposed injection well’s close proximity to residences is a concern, said Dave Devanney, chair of the Battlement Mesa Concerned Citizens, referencing a fire at a wastewater injection well in Weld County. In April, a lightning bolt struck a water storage tank, causing a series of explosions and a fire, the Greeley Tribune reported.

“It’s an issue that’s not very comforting to people who live in the area,” Devanney said of injection wells.

The well is already drilled and the COGCC has already completed a significant amount of its review, said Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa. Still, injection likely would not start until the fall of 2015, assuming the application is approved.

“There has to be a lot of testing before we get the green light,” said Simpson, adding that the COGCC will continue assessing the well once it is operational.

The continued hearing is set for the commissioners June 22 meeting at the county administration building in Glenwood Springs.

**********

Garfield weighs proposal for injection well
By Dennis Webb

PARACHUTE — Area residents Monday reiterated their concerns about possible earthquakes and other impacts from a proposed wastewater injection well, while Ursa Resources countered that it actually would reduce the impacts of oil and gas development.

Due to time constraints, Garfield County commissioners delayed for a week a decision on Ursa’s proposal for a site outside Battlement Mesa.

Key concerns for some local residents include protection of domestic water supplies and the potential for injection wells to trigger earthquakes, an issue of increasing concern in places like Oklahoma.

Richard Buchan of Battlement Mesa said use of injection wells isn’t compatible with residential areas and water supplies.

“You can’t guarantee against seismicity or water contamination,” he said.

Battlement Mesa resident Bob Arrington fears that with the number of injection wells growing in the area, the potential is growing for injected fluids to reach faults in so-called “basement” geological formations and cause a quake.

The group Battlement Concerned Citizens says there are about 10 injection wells either in place or planned in the Parachute/Battlement Mesa area. Countywide, 61 wells could be used for wastewater disposal, and 27 of them have been used since 2013, county oil and gas liaison Kirby Wynn says. Some residents are pushing for installation of a local seismic monitor.

Ursa geologist Duke Cooley said he believes there are no faults within about a five-mile radius of the proposed well. The well would be used to inject into porous sandstone, whereas an injection well that has been linked to quakes in the Greeley area was injecting into basement rock, he said.

However, the proposed well still would inject fluids more than a mile underground, whereas most water wells are shallower than 200 feet and are protected from contamination by the intervening rock layers, Cooley said.

He said about a half-dozen seismic monitors are within about 60 miles of the proposed site, so there’s already “a very dense seismic array that’s over here to monitor seismic activity.”

Ursa plans to use pipelines to transport wastewater to the site, and the well will reduce the truck traffic associated with handling the highly salty water that is produced by its local wells.

“It is designed to help take care of noise and traffic” near communities, said John Doose, who works as a landman for Ursa.

Also during the commissioners’ meeting Monday, they heard continuing concerns from residents regarding Ursa’s plans to eventually begin drilling within the Battlement Mesa community.

Commissioners are considering installing a permanent air quality monitor there ahead of any drilling, or at least moving a mobile monitor back to the community from Glenwood Springs.

Ursa geologist Duke Cooley said: “about a half-dozen seismic monitors are within about 60 miles of the proposed site, so there’s already ‘a very dense seismic array that’s over here to monitor seismic activity’.”

According Dr. Rick Aster, Professor of Geophysics and Department Head with the Colorado State University: “Seismic network coverage in Colorado is currently sparse.” Click here for Dr. Aster’s slideshow presentation: Earthquakes – Natural and Induced.

This map shows Colorado’s seismometer network. On the west slope most of the seismometers appear to be further than 60 miles away from Battlement Mesa.

Seismometer_Networks

Seismic network coverage in Colorado: 2015 publicly accessible seismographs. Click on image to enlarge [Source: Colorado Geological Survey]

Bob Arrington’s comments (all page numbers refer to Dr. Aster’s slideshow presentation: Earthquakes – Natural and Induced):

I testified to the commissioners that what Duke testified to wasn’t completely true.

He said they “found no faults” and as Dennis Webb stated in his article: “Ursa geologist Duke Cooley said he believes there are no faults within about a five-mile radius of the proposed well.”

I pointed out the USGS mapped 2 faults on each side of the injection well and one to the southwest. [See map of faults at the top of this page.] I also related that they didn’t need to be in the basement rock, it only had to find its way into the faults for reducing friction by lubrication or increasing pressure. [See pages 17-19 of Aster’s report.]

I had handed the two pages — page 19 and “faults,” to commissioners prior to testifying.

I told them how this situation resembled the Oklahoma Wilzetta faults and told them all was in the Aster presentation to the EAB. I gave the only copy I had with me to Jean Alberico afterward [See page 49].

I closed with the point, as stated in Dennis Webb’s article: “Battlement Mesa resident Bob Arrington fears that with the number of injection wells growing in the area, the potential is growing for injected fluids to reach faults in so-called ‘basement’ geological formations and cause a quake.”

In the hearing and the evening geology presentation, Duke said the Piceance had almost no activity and Garfield none except “normal tectonic” on the edges. [See page 24] And his remark about a “half a dozen” within 100 kilometers” at the hearing is more in perspective by page 8. [Also shown on the seismometer map above.]

Click here to view Dr. Rick Aster’s video presentation:  Induced Seismicity: What it is, Why does it Happen, and What Should We Do About It?

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One Comment on “Finding fault with Ursa’s new injection well”

  1. Mary Russell Says:

    “We are stuck in a feedback loop where our failures are interpreted as signs that we should repeat our failed tactics, but try harder. This is what it is to be colonized….it must be reassuring to corporate executives and those who serve them to sit back and smile at their containment efforts, and the predictability of their campaigns.”

    A campaign in Colorado that changes this predictability is being lead by the Colorado Community Rights Network. Join my effort to bring community rights to western Colorado!

    Jane Anne Morris wrote this enlightening essay that explains the problem, and gives solutions, “Help! I’ve been colonized and I can’t get up”.

    http://www.poclad.org/BWA/2005/BWA_2005_FEB.html

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