Questions We Can Answer About Colorado’s Order To Inspect Wells And Flowlines
An April 17 home explosion in Firestone, Colorado, that killed two and hospitalized a third, has been traced back to an abandoned flowline that bled off gas from a nearby wellhead into the soil next to the home’s foundation.
The incident prompted an initial voluntary shutdown of wells from three operators, renewed attention to the friction between expanding urban areas and oil and gas development, and an order from Gov. John Hickenlooper for oil and gas operators to inspect active and abandoned flowlines.
Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District investigators concluded May 2 that the flowline was improperly abandoned, meaning it wasn’t capped at both the well end and the far end of the line. The well was inactive for some time. When it was brought back into production in January 2017, methane and propane seeped into the soil near the home of Mark and Erin Martinez from the uncapped line. The gas moved from the soil into the home through a French Drain and sump pit, according to investigators. In contrast to leaking utility pipelines which contain the rotten egg smell — mercaptan — this gas was unscented.
If homeowners are planning to dig underground, they should dial 811, or go to Colorado 811. The nonprofit has a computer system that routes the request to the proper company, including utilities, cable providers and oil and gas operators. They have three days to process the request. If there are lines that homeowners needs to steer clear of, it’s the company’s responsibility to mark on the property where they are. Always remember to call before you dig.
“We never want anybody out there excavating without having the proper locations out there,” said Colorado 811 Chief Executive Officer J.D. Maniscalco. “If they are ever in doubt. Call us back. Ask for a second notice to be sent.”
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