Feb. 19—Crestone Peak Resources is working with Firestone officials to ensure a new multi-well horizontal drilling operation planned for a southeast portion of the town’s Central Park Disc Golf Course will be shielded from the view of park users.
Plans for that drilling site are still being finalized with the town; it is one of four multi-well pads Crestone is seeking to establish that will bring 51 new wells to Firestone in the coming months.
Crestone projects its four well pads throughout town will generate $135 million in property tax revenue for the town and 12 other taxing entities over the 25-year lifespans of the wells, including $101.3 million in their first seven years. The figures were calculated using a $50 per barrel price point for oil and a $3 per million British thermal units price point for natural gas.
The company this month started drilling wells on one location — the 19-well Bighorn pad northeast of Pine Cone Avenue and Del Camino Lane — marking the first new oil and gas extraction site in the town since the fatal 2017 home explosion that was caused by a leaky flowline attached to a vertical well owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corp.
While some Carbon Valley residents have been more on edge regarding oil and gas operations since the explosion that killed brothers-in-law Joey Irwin and Mark Martinez, the technology Crestone is planning to use has been applauded by some who believe it will be safer.
Craig Owen, who, during a December Board of Trustees public hearing on the project said he owns about 80 acres adjacent to the Bighorn pad, hailed the transition from the vertical wells used on and around his property for the past 20 years to the horizontal drilling technology being used across the region today. He also spoke in favor of the use of a pipeline to carry oil and gas from the project site instead of trucks.
“With the progress I’ve seen over the 20 or so years I’ve owned that ground, and to produce our own domestic energy instead of buying it from people (overseas) that really wish us ill, I couldn’t be more in favor of this project,” Owen said.
But worries remain for other residents.
Fran Hoylman at the December public hearing on the Bighorn pad encouraged town officials to help expedite the plug-and-abandon process for the hundreds of active and inactive vertical wells throughout Firestone and areas just outside its borders.
“Health and safety concerns” with the drilling project prompted wheelchair-bound resident Gayle Mertz to speak up at the hearing. She urged town officials to develop and publicize an “evacuation plan” for removing residents in the event of another emergency at an oil and gas site, describing how she was left alone at her home after being told by firefighters to leave the area near the Martinez home while it was ablaze in 2017.
Crestone spokesman Jason Oates said the company’s planned operations in the town are much different than the infrastructure involved in the 2017 explosion. Horizontal drilling streamlines the treatment system and conveyance lines for hydrocarbons compared to vertical drilling, and has a smaller environmental impact compared to vertical wells, industry advocates say.
“I think the town board and town staff understand the differences in what we’re proposing versus what was at the center of the tragedy in 2017,” Oates said. “Everything is focused on what we can do to make sure things are safe and fits the town’s plans.”
The company plans to conceal the 14-well pad, known as the Kugel pad, from the view of Central Park Disc Golf Course users with a berm and other landscaping, Oates said. Several existing single wells already dot the park area, some of which will be plugged and abandoned, while others are shut in, meaning they are temporarily taken out of production, town Planning and Zoning Commission records show.
Crestone also will relocate a portion of a walking path that loops around the park to “avoid pedestrian conflicts with vehicles accessing the well pad,” according to a Firestone staff memo to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
The town’s Board of Trustees in December unanimously approved the Bighorn pad, and is set to take a final vote on the Kugel pad at its Feb. 27 meeting; the Planning and Zoning Commission earlier this month unanimously approved the Kugel project.
The 12-well Johnson pad just south of Firestone Boulevard and west of Cherryvale Street, and the six-well Sheley pad northeast of Weld County Roads 17 and 24 have yet to start moving through the town approval process, Oates said.
Drilling on the Bighorn site is expected to last through July.
Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, email@example.com and twitter.com/samlounz.
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