COGCC rep Stuart Ellsworth
talked to group Sunday
The group invited Stuart Ellsworth, an engineer manager with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, to speak at their monthly meeting Sunday to briefly explain how hydrofracking -- or hydraulic fracturing -- works and the potential consequences it brings as background information, so the statewide group can form an opinion by January.
said prospectors in Logan County are likely searching D Sand and J Sand formations, or pockets of oil underground.
The Niobrara Formation stretches south through Yuma County and other areas of Colorado.
But oil companies have been drilling wells all across the state, from the western slope to the Front Range.
Colorado has about 49,000 active oil wells, Ellsworth
said, with 5,000 new permits and 3,000 new wells created annually.
About 90 percent of the drilling is hydrofracking, which involves fracturing rocks underground to release petroleum or natural gas.
According to the Colorado Oil and Gas Information System, 22 permits have been approved for Logan County since mid-February, from four operators -- the most recent of which was approved Oct. 27.
Nine more permits are still pending, as well.
said an approved permit doesn't mean the company will develop a well on the property, but it will access the land.
Though each site added up could cost oil companies millions of dollars, he
shrugged off concerns while talking after the meeting.
"That's venture capitalism for you," he
assured the group that during the process, measures were put in place to make sure each level of land was kept separate.
Oil crews also create an oil log that maps the layers to help them find where to dig.
The well pipe is 3/8 inches thick in a hole 9 inches wide, but it could bore about 6,000 to 8,000 feet underground to reach the well.
A straight vertical hole could take about two weeks to build, Ellsworth
said, while a horizontal well -- which branches outward as well as down -- could take three to four weeks.
Crews sample the water before and after drilling to ensure the water quality hasn't changed and create a cement bond log, which documents the integrity of the cement used between the steel casing of the pipe and the outside formation.
The pressure of the well is also monitored for any sudden increases, and if the well creates an oil spill of more than five barrels, Ellsworth
said the crews have to report it.
stressed that the majority of oil operations in Colorado are safe and that usually only one major spill in state's thousands of wells is reported each year.
Farmers can request to use the water drilling companies use and to what extent, though much of it is brine water.
As for concerns about taking farmers' water, Ellsworth
said the companies were purchasing rights to groundwater that farms aren't using.
said 85 percent of the state's water goes to agriculture, while only .08 percent goes to hydrofracking.
said they can request, for example, that the wells be drilled on the corner of a property so they don't interfere with irrigation equipment.
Once a lease is signed it goes public for 20 days before going into effect.
Landowners, however, don't have the right to deny access to the resources possessed by the mineral rights owner, if the owner is different.
The oil companies can drill regardless, though they have to provide some sort of compensation for the right.
If the permit sought covers 40 acres and multiple owners, Ellsworth
said in another example, they have to get 80 percent of the owners to agree, and all of the owners must get a fair share.
As far as finding good companies to work with, Ellsworth
didn't know of anywhere to look to find ones with the most responsible practices.