Oil, gas lines near Colorado build­ings mapped

The state had or­dered test­ing for leaks by Fri­day; most passed.

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Dan El­liott

Colorado has nearly 129,000 un­der­ground oil and gas pipe­lines within 1,000 feet of oc­cu­pied build­ings, ac­cord­ing to en­ergy com­pany re­ports or­dered by the state after a fa­tal house ex­plo­sion blamed on a sev­ered gas line.

Fri­day was the dead­line for com­pa­nies to test lines for leaks, and about 9,700 test re­sults were made pub­lic. The vast ma­jor­ity in­di­cated the pipe­lines passed.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion or­dered en­ergy com­pa­nies to iden­tify and test all pipe­lines near oc­cu­pied struc­tures after a nat­u­ral gas ex­plo­sion killed two peo­ple and in­jured a third in April.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors said odor­less, un­re­fined gas from the sev­ered pipe­line trig­gered the ex­plo­sion that de­stroyed a house in Fire­stone, about 30 miles north of Den­ver. The line was thought to be aban­doned but was con­nected to a well with a valve in the open po­si­tion. Fed­eral, state and lo­cal of­fi­cials are in­ves­ti­gat­ing. They have not said why the pipe­line was tied into the well.

The ex­plo­sion wors­ened long­stand­ing wor­ries in Colorado about the prox­im­ity of oil and gas wells to homes, schools and busi­nesses, es­pe­cially north­east of Den­ver, where both the pop­u­la­tion and drilling have ex­panded rapidly in the past decade.

The data re­ported to the state by Fri­day showed more than 7,700 pipe­lines had at least one end in­side a city or town.

The house that ex­ploded was within 200 feet of the gas well, and the pipe­line was sev­ered about 10 feet from the house, of­fi­cials said. The well and pipe­line were in place sev­eral years be­fore the house was built. Anadarko Petroleum, which owns the well, said it would per­ma­nently shut it down.

The pipe­lines are known as flow lines and con­nect wells to tanks or other col­lec­tion points. A well can have mul­ti­ple flow lines of vary­ing lengths. Some carry petroleum from the well to a sep­a­ra­tor, which re­moves wa­ter and di­vides oil from the gas. Other lines carry the wa­ter, oil and gas from the sep­a­ra­tor to tanks.

Oil and gas com­pa­nies re­ported 128,826 flow lines within 1,000 feet of build­ings, al­though a few com­pa­nies in­cluded lines up to 1,500 feet away, said Todd Hart­man, a spokesman for the Oil and Gas Con­ser­va­tion Com­mis­sion. About 113,000 are in use.

The com­mis­sion chose the 1,000-foot dis­tance be­cause that is a state-des­ig­nated buf­fer zone around oc­cu­pied build­ings where reg­u­la­tors can im­pose spe­cial con­di­tions to pro­tect pub­lic health and safety.

The pur­pose of the in­ven­tory is to see whether any in­ac­tive lines still pro­trude above the ground, where they might mis­tak­enly be put back in use. Since 2001, the com­mis­sion has re­quired com­pa­nies to dis­con­nect and purge flow lines when they are aban­doned. They also have to be cut off 3 feet be­low the sur­face and sealed at both ends.

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