by Pam Zubeck
Colorado Springs' Oil and Gas Committee meets tomorrow to take up the issue of water — quality and quantity — in the oil and gas drilling business.
The meeting starts at 8:30 a.m. at City Hall and includes a presentation by Colorado Springs Utilities, which is building the $880 million Southern Delivery System pipeline. Originally, it was imagined as serving thousands of homes on Banning Lewis Ranch; now, 18,000 acres of the 23,000-acre area is owned by Ultra Resources, a division of Ultra Petroleum of Houston.
We've checked in the last few days to see if Ultra had asked Utilities about supplying water to its wells. It hasn't.
Anyway, if anyone watching this issue wants to do a little homework in advance of tomorrow's meeting, they might see the Jan. 9 Governmental Accountability Office study on the use of water in drilling activities. The study estimates that 56 million barrels of water are "produced" every day in drilling activities. (Water used in drilling is called produced water.)
The GAO undertook to describe:
— What is known about the volume and quality of produced water from oil and gas production;
— What practices are generally used to manage and treat produced water, and what factors are considered in the selection of each;
— How produced water management is regulated at the federal level and in selected states;
— What federal research and development efforts have been undertaken during the last 10 years related to produced water.
The GAO looked at nine states — Colorado, California, Kansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wyoming. Eight of them were chosen "because the volume of produced water generated within their borders accounts for nearly 90 percent of the produced water generated in the United States as of 2007, the most recent year for which there were available data," the GAO report said. Pennsylvania was included because of recent growth in the Marcellus shale formation, which could trigger large-scale produced water management approaches.
One way to dispose of produced water is by injecting it underground. The GAO cites EPA records as showing that in 2010, there were 150,855 injection wells authorized for the injection of fluids brought to the surface during oil and gas production, including produced water. Not all are operating.