Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Colorado Study: 116 Documented Oil and Gas Fires or Explosions over 10 Years in the State

Colorado had at least 116 fires and explosions at oil and gas operations from 2006 to 2015, according to a study​ published in Energy Research & Social Sciences from researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The ColoradoSPH research team evaluated accident reports from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency that regulates oil and gas activities, and found incidents were reported at 0.03 percent of active wells each year, or about one fire or explosion for every 3,690 active wells.

The rate of these incidents per number of active wells in Colorado is significantly lower than in Utah (0.07 percent of active wells). Utah requires mandatory reporting of all incidents involving fires and explosions, but Colorado requires self-reporting only of fires or explosions that have caused harm “to a member of the general public which requires medical treatment” or “significant damage to equipment or well site” according to COGCC rules.

“While the rate of fires and/or explosions were higher in Utah compared to Colorado, this is likely due to the mandatory reporting of all incidents in Utah,” said Dr. John Adgate, senior author and chair of the department of environmental and occupational health at ColoradoSPH. “In Colorado, the judgment on whether significant damage or injuries to the public have occurred is left the operator’s discretion.”

The main causes of the recorded incidents in the COGCC database were equipment failure (20 percent), lightning strikes (14 percent), and operator error (nine percent). The cause of these incidents were unclear, unspecified or under investigation for 42 percent of the cases.

Read the full story here.