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FLE to 'frack' despite assurances

Posted: Friday, Apr 12th, 2013

Courtesy photo FLE has notified the COGCC that they plan to use hydraulic fracking at the site shown above on Thursday.

DEL NORTE—Although First Liberty Energy (FLE) told the Rio Grande County Commissioners (RGCC) in January hydraulic fracking was not part of the plan; the energy firm notified the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) last week they intend to frack at 5 a.m. on Thursday, April 11.

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, is the process of creating small cracks or fractures in underground geological formations to allow oil or natural gas to flow into the well bore and thereby increases production, according to the COGCC. In Colorado, the target hydrocarbon bearing rock formation is often more than 7,000 feet below the ground surface and more than 5,000 feet below any drinking water aquifers.

Roughly three weeks ago, Peterson Energy wrapped up drilling, which revealed “pay zones,” the area where oil, gas and hydrocarbon are trapped under a cap rock. In the site located five miles northwest of Del Norte, the cap rock is shale combined with a sandy like substance stemming from volcanic intrusion. The company complied with Rio Grande County’s special use conditions, casing to 4,800 feet, 200 feet below the Conejos Formation base, and drilling beyond to approximately 9,250 feet to protect the aquifer from pollution.

Rio Grande County Commissioner Karla Shriver said in a telephone interview on Monday the RGCC were unable to talk with the COGCC about the notice last Friday or yesterday, but expected a conversation with the agency about fracking in the Valley sometime today.

“We are going to talk about the process and what is going to happen,” Shriver said. “Hopefully they will disclose the chemicals they are using.” According to the COGCC, to fracture the formation, special fracturing fluids are injected down the well bore and into the formation. These fluids typically consist of water, sand, and chemical additives like gelling agents and biocides. In Colorado, potassium chloride is a common additive, and companies only have to provide the COGCC 48 hours notice before shooting it down into the well.

Fluid carries sand into the fractures and keeps the fractures open to increase the flow of oil or natural gas to the well bore, according to the COGCC. The chemicals serve a variety of purposes, including increasing viscosity, reducing friction, controlling bacteria and decreasing corrosion. Following the treatment, much of the fracturing fluid flows back up the well bore and is collected at the surface in tanks or lined pits. There is concern the fracking chemicals could contaminate the Valley’s water supply. Shriver said she asked FLE to commit to a no fracking operation before the conditional use permit was approved in February, but they did not oblige.

“It leaves it in the back of your mind that they are going to do it,” Shriver said. “The water is our concern.”

Rio Grande County Land Use planner Rose Vanderpool issued fracking notices to property owners within 1,500-feet of the site.

FLE hit 32 wells consecutively in Logan County, Okla., according to the company’s website. FLE capitalizes on its 100 percent wet well record with a “conservative development approach.”

FLE did not return emails in regards to the fracking the Del Norte site before press time.

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