In the aftermath of days of torrential downpours in Colorado, many of the state's oil and gas wells have been knocked out of commission for the time being. The large number of wells affected – almost 2,000 at one point – reflects the scope of the disaster that has befallen the Centennial State.
Greg Fulton, president of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association (CMCA), told Fleet Owner that many of the affected areas "experienced a year's worth of rainfall in just three days." The resultant flooding occurred mostly in the northeastern and eastern parts of the state, which have seen a significant drilling boom in recent years as the use of hydraulic fracturing has expanded.
"The only saving grace is that this is not happening during winter, for the amount of rain we've seen would translate to roughly 10 or 12 feet of snow," Fulton said.
Approximately 1,300 wells representing about 12 percent of the state's oil and gas production remain shut down at the present time, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).
Extensive infrastructure damage will slow resumption of oilfield operations
Hydraulic jet pumps can help affected well operators in Colorado remove unwanted liquids from their wells. However, it may be some time before companies reach this stage of the recovery process. The COGCC informed the media that state workers are in the process of evaluating wells, but have been "hampered by wet and slow-going conditions."
Colorado Oil & Gas Association CEO Tisha Schuller told Bloomberg News that it will be "at least another week" before companies are able to assemble comprehensive estimates about the extent of the damage to key oilfield equipment and recovery timelines. Damage to roads and bridges has forced companies to rely on aerial reconnaissance in some areas, as workers simply cannot reach many sites. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) estimates that at least 30 bridges were destroyed or left in such a precarious state that they are unusable.
"If it turns out wells are damaged by all the flooding, it's going to be really hard to move in the heavy equipment and supplies needed to repair and restart them," CMCA's Fulton explained. "That's going to take a while to sort out. CDOT is looking to get things back up and running quickly and there's been great support from the state and federal government, but there's no easy silver bullet to solve all of this. It will just take a lot of time."
Report: Frequency of severe storms expected to increase
The extent of the disruption in Colorado underscores the risk posed by extreme weather. That risk will continue to grow in coming decades, according to scientists at Stanford University. In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of researchers recently published the results of a study that used computer-generated models to predict that the United States will be hit by a growing number of severe thunderstorms.
States along the East Coast will reportedly be the most at risk, with the number of "super storms" to hit this region each year increasing by 40 percent by 2070. However, other areas of the country, including the Midwest and Great Plains, are also expected to see a higher number of severe storms.
While companies of all types will need to be proactive to prepare themselves for future challenges, well operators in Colorado have immediate priorities to address. Those who were especially hard-hit by the recent floods may want to contact an independent service provider for help performing any repairs and oil and gas well dewatering that may be required to get their properties producing as quickly as possible. Technology consultants can also aid companies in acquiring new equipment to replace damaged items.