Gosh. It was like old home week. I attended the Ursa community meeting in Silt, Wednesday evening. I haven’t been to an Ursa meeting since March 2014. I’ve been sick a long time. At that March meeting I learned about the FLIR camera and I thought, “Wow. What if a bunch of citizens could get their hands on one of those?”
Anyway, back to the future—10-21-15 to be exact. Ursa is not drilling at any of their pads near Silt right now, which explains the low turnout of maybe two dozen people total including Ursa employees.
Leading the meeting was John Doose, Land & Surface Owner Relations. Also present and identified from Ursa were Dwayne Knudsen, Environmental Specialist; Tara Mall, Health & Safety Manager; Pake Younger, Completions Manager. Silt dignitaries present were Pamela Woods, town manager and Chief Levy Burris (obviously to keep rowdy stakeholders in line).
The theme was “everyone is a stakeholder.” Their list of stakeholders includes communities (and hopefully the people living in them, not just local government), landowners, leaseholders, employees, contractors, and investors. Though even a cursory glance at that list tells you not all stakeholders are equal.
Some of the faces have changed since 2014, but Ursa’s message remains the same. We are your friends and neighbors. Though I have to admit it’s difficult to feel all chummy with a neighbor who knowingly emits toxic chemicals that contribute to higher than normal instances of asthma, miscarriages, stillbirths, cancer, and other immunodeficiency diseases and disorders. So there’s that.
Besides making application to drill inside the Battlement Mesa PUD, what else has Ursa been up to lately?
Construction on the Valley Farms O pad was completed last summer. No word on when drilling will commence. All four wells on Silt Mesa are shut in and capped.
Here is a list of Ursa’s drilled wells on pads located south of Silt, from September 2014 to the present:
McLin A pad – 5 wells
McLin B pad – 3 wells
Valley Farms L pad – 10 wells
Frei A pad – 2 wells
We’ve all been able to breathe a little easier since the last round of drilling at the beginning of this year. But that won’t last. The Capstar rig will soon make its return appearance in Silt at the Valley Farms L pad, across the river from Coal Ridge High School. I call it the monster pad.
According to Ursa: “The six-month operational forecast is to drill an additional 6-8 wells on the Valley Farms L pad, with commencement to occur either by mid-November 2015 or Q1 2016.”
Tod Tibbetts asked about odor and/or emissions mitigation. During the drilling process in January and February this year, they really stunk up the place, especially during air inversions. Doose and Knudsen said they would look into it. Pake Younger questioned how the drilling affected Silt’s air quality. I took these photos on January 6, 2015.
In fact, I was extremely ill with pseudomonas and various other bacterial infections at the time and we couldn’t figure out why, with all the medications I was taking, I was getting sicker instead of better. It was a scary time. My doctor was baffled. I was frustrated. Then I told her about the drilling and the air inversions and sent her these photos. That was when we began to unravel the mystery behind what was happening to my immune system. My doctor said, “I’m positive you are allergic to drilling chemicals and once we get you stabilized and improving, we need to do DNA testing.” Once the drilling stopped, my health started to gradually improve. And DNA testing revealed that my body is unable to process BTEXS.
So yeah, emissions and associated odors from the Valley Farms L pad – definitely a problem.
More inspectors means more inspections
Dwayne Knudsen is Ursa’s environmental specialist and therefore their internal inspector. He said there have been lots of inspections, and inspections are on the rise. Ursa had 93 inspections in 2014, and this year so far 112 inspections. Those are COGCC inspections.
Fiona Lloyd asked, “Why so many inspections?”
Doose and Knudsen explained that as a result of the task force recommendations, the COGCC had requested more inspectors. A lively discussion ensued with input from around the room about the COGCC. Instead of 15 inspectors for over 53,000 wells statewide we now have “up to 28.” The COGCC Rifle office headed by Shaun Kellerby has recently added Richard Murray as the new field inspector. A new reclamation inspector was also brought in to cover all of western Colorado.
Ursa takes pride in their regular inspections routine and bi-monthly safety meetings. I don’t mean to be picky but seeing as how oil & gas rig worker is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, they might want to consider stepping up those safety meetings.
About the South Gravel Trend …
Fiona Lloyd asked about any plans for the South Gravel Trend, across the river from Silt, quoting from a 2011 article in the PI:
Antero Resources Piceance Corp. has recently filed a comprehensive drilling plan application for an 8,200-acre area known as the South Gravel Trend, which parallels the southern boundary of the town of Silt. The plan calls for the construction of 21 new well pads, potential expansion of 41 existing well pads, and the drilling of up to 850 new wells from those pads over the course of six years. The plan also proposes roads, pipelines and other facilities, according to information submitted for review by Silt Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) at a meeting on Nov. 1. As of August, Antero reported in its application, it had drilled 203 wells from its 41 pads in the area, and that it has permits for 255 more wells from those existing pads.
Doose responded that for the time being the price of gas was too low for them to contemplate a drilling project on that scale on those leases.
But what exactly is the South Gravel Trend? Good question. According to the PI article above it “parallels the southern boundary of the town of Silt.” If you look at the map at the top of this page, that includes the new Valley Farms O pad. What this really boils down to is that we don’t actually know what well pads are considered to be within the South Gravel Trend, so there’s no way of knowing to what extent Ursa is already developing the South Gravel Trend.
What about spills and releases?
I asked about spills and releases. What is Ursa’s procedure for handling spills and/or releases – besides filling out a COGCC Form 19?
There was plenty of back and forth on this topic, so here’s the gist: For small spills where the contaminated soil fits into a 5-gallon bucket or a barrel, the buckets/barrels are sealed and labeled, and then taken to the GarCo landfill. For larger spills, a vac truck (vacuum truck a la Badger Daylighting or MRI) is brought in to suck up the spill. The leftover contaminated soil is then trucked to the Wasatch Pond Facility up Mamm Creek southwest of Silt where it gets remediated, meaning it gets mixed with a composting material consisting of wood-based absorbent materials and cornhusks.
I asked, “Do you use dispersants?” After some initial confusion between Doose and Knudsen, I clarified my question like this: “Do you use any product or chemical to enhance evaporation at the spill site?”
The answer was no.
In preparation for this report, I visited the COGCC website and looked up Ursa’s most recent spill/release incident on October 12, at the McLin A pad along Divide Creek, across the river from Coal Ridge HS.
Ursa reported 2 bbls spilled and 2 bbls recovered in an incident due to equipment failure. Excerpt from Form 19:
During night of Monday, 10/12/15 a separator unit malfunctioned and allowed two (2) barrels of produced water to leak out of one of the valves. The produced water accumulated by the separator on the pad when it was discovered when field personnel were performing daily routine site visits and inspections. A vac truck was used to recover all free standing liquids as well as any stained soils associated with the spill. All impacts have been removed from the location and the valve has been replaced, preventing any additional spills from occuring.
Click here to read spill report.
Click here to view site map.
It’s not a big spill by any means, but I thought you should know.
The strange case of the disappearing well pads
Well this is odd. I discovered a couple well pads that have the ability to appear and disappear. Watch closely.
When I reviewed my report of the March 2014 Ursa meeting (BTW, the theme that night was “Ursa goes green.” Hmm …), I noticed the Valley Farms L pad is missing from the map that was handed out at the March meeting.
This is the map that Ursa handed out at the March 2014 meeting.In the handout we received at this week’s meeting (10/21), we learned that 10 wells have been drilled on the Valley Farms L pad since September 2014. However at the March 2014 meeting, not only was there was no mention of their plans to drill 10 wells on the Valley Farms L pad in the coming year, there was no mention of the Valley Farms L pad at all. It wasn’t even on the map! Yet that pad was the most expanded and most drilled in the past year in the Silt area.
In other words Ursa never told the community of Silt about their largest upcoming volume of operation at the March 2014 meeting. Likewise I checked Fiona Lloyd’s report on the September 2014 meeting and there was no mention of the Valley Farms L pad. We don’t even know if the Valley Farms L pad was constructed in 2014.
We can’t assume that it did not exist simply because it wasn’t on the map. Reason being is because the Valley Farms J pad did exist in 2014, it’s on the map, but it’s missing from the 2015 map.
Here again is the map handed out by Ursa at Wednesday night’s meeting.
In essence back in 2014, Ursa neglected to mention 50% of their planned drilling activities for the upcoming year, activities that had a major impact on Silt’s air quality and the health of the local citizens.
So when Ursa talks about drilling only 6 new wells in the coming year, we can’t help but wonder if there is more to the big picture than what they are telling us?