Another natural gas accident, this time in northeastern Colorado

UPDATE: According to the Peetz fire department, the East Cheyenne well was capped at approximately 1:20 p..m. Saturday; all area residents under evacuation are being allowed to go home and roads in the area have been reopened.

A gas well, six miles west of Peetz in northern Logan county, just south of the Colorado-Wyoming state line, blew out on Thursday, forcing the evacuation of about 25 area residents.

As of 5 p.m. Friday the natural gas well was still leaking and is not expected to be fixed until Saturday at the earliest. A blowout occurs when pressure control equipment fails, and, in this case, the natural gas escapes in an uncontrolled manner. The well is part of an underground storage facility, according to its operator, East Cheyenne Gas Storage.

Kyle Moulton, emergency manager for Logan County, said the blow-out happened just before 5:30 p.m. Thursday near the town of 237 people.

The blowout triggered a reverse 911 notification with a request that residents within two miles of the facility evacuate, Moulton said. The American Red Cross was on standby for emergency shelter, but as of Thursday evening it wasn’t needed. He estimates there were 10 single-family homes within that two-mile perimeter of the well, and that most of the residents did evacuate.

Some residents are being allowed home temporarily, with escorts, to pick up pets, clothing and medications, Moulton said. The area perimeter is locked down and will remain in effect until at least Saturday.

The well, started up in 2011, is operated by East Cheyenne Gas Storage, a subsidiary of Midstream Energy Holdings of Houston. Moulton said the company has not yet identified an estimated time for when the leak will be fixed. An emergency response team has been dispatched to the area and that crew has been working to evaluate the site, which Moulton said included taking precautionary measures, although he did not know what types.

According to a statement from East Cheyenne Gas Storage, “contractors were working on one of 16 wells on the site that are used to inject and withdraw natural gas into and out of the underground storage facility. A safety device failed and as a result, natural gas from the single affected well is escaping into the atmosphere.”

East Cheyenne’s statement said that local, state and federal authorities have been notified, including Logan County, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the Colorado Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the U.S. National Response Center.

Todd Hartman, a spokesman for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said such incidents are “uncommon” but he did not have statistics readily available. 

Photo credit: Jeremy Buckingham, Creative Commons, Flickr