WINDSOR - Oil-laden fracking fluid gushed from an oil well near Fort Collins for nearly 30 hours before it was stopped Tuesday afternoon.
A hydraulic failure around 9:30 a.m. Monday caused a piece of equipment to fall onto a valve and break it at the drilling site 4 miles east of Fort Collins. A horizontal stream of green-tinted fluid flowed from the valve for nearly a day and half before crews gained control of it.
The workers had the flow stopped shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday. The well operator, PDC Energy, planned to bring in a crew from Texas to stop the gushing liquid, which company officials say was contained by an earthen berm.
There were no injuries and no threat of an explosion, state oil and gas regulators said.
The well, called "Ochsner 50-441," was initially drilled in December. It is about a half mile south of what becomes Harmony Road in Fort Collins and 4 miles east of Interstate 25 in Weld County, southeast of the intersection of Weld County Roads 74 and 15. The nearest home is about 1,500 feet away from the drilling site.
"This was not a blowout," Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission spokesman Todd Hartman said Tuesday afternoon, adding that the incident occurred during the "flowback" stage of drilling.
"The liquid is 'frac' water, with some residual oil, and there is an odor associated with the spill," Hartman said. "Crews are taking air tests every half hour to ensure no explosive potential."
Flowback is oil-laden hydraulic fracturing fluid that returns to the surface after being injected into an oil well, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Bart Brookman, PDC Energy's senior vice president of operations, said the liquid is contained and no environmental problems would result from the incident.
The company dug trenches around the spill perimeter to collect the fluid, Hartman said. Another company was working to plug the well, and a vacuum truck was on scene Tuesday to clean up some of the liquid.
Hartman said he has no estimate for the volume of fracking fluid spilled.
PDC Energy has been involved in seven other oil and gas-related spills and incidents so far in 2013 in Colorado two of them within the last week, state records show.
Three of those incidents impacted groundwater. In 2012, the company was involved in 27 oil and gas spills and releases, 12 of which contaminated groundwater.
Weld County Emergency Management Director Roy Rudisill said if the well had been drilled closer than 1,500 feet from homes, it would have been a greater hazard to people.
"I don't think it's a high-hazard threat to residents or businesses because there's a far enough distance away from where this (well is) set," Rudisill said.
The incident occurred the same day Colorado oil and gas commissioners approved a new oil well buffer zone beginning Aug. 1, requiring a minimum of 500 feet between oil wells and homes or other buildings. The buffer, called a "setback," was expanded from 150 feet in rural areas.
Ken Hall, an engineer and hay farmer whose property abuts the drilling site and whose house is about 2,000 feet away, said he worried about the fumes he was breathing around his house.
From his backyard on Tuesday morning, a strong odor of petroleum filled the air within 1,000 feet of the drilling site as the wind blew oil-laced mist toward houses along County Road 74.
Hall said he isn't against fracking, and the region needs both the jobs and energy the oil and gas industry generates. But, he said, "we need the facts" about fracking.
"This is the poster child for fracking gone wrong," he said.
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