The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has suspended operations of a Kinder Morgan carbon dioxide well on County Road BB after a gas-venting complaint from a neighbor, according to company officials.
On Tuesday, several Kinder Morgan officials met with Montezuma County commissioners and resident Tom Hayden to address concerns about the well, which is next door to his residence and farm in Pleasant View.
Operations at the CX14 well ceased Aug. 23, and the company is being asked to comply with a list of COGCC conditions before starting the well back up, said Barry Swift, Kinder Morgan asset manager for CO2 production.
In regards to questions about the well, COGCC Communications Director Megan Castle stated: “A safety shutdown occurred on this well on Aug. 23. The COGCC and its operator are currently in discussions to determine next steps.” Updated information will be provided when it becomes available, he added.
Well venting, a process that releases unwanted gases into the air, was conducted for 14 days this summer at the CX14 well. Hayden was concerned about gas smells coming from the site, and a malfunctioning audible alarm on an air monitor located on his property.
But the well stayed in compliance with COGCC regulations, said Chris Lopez, Kinder Morgan regulatory agent. He said air-quality monitors at the well site, and on Hayden’s property, showed no dangerous levels of gases were released during the recent venting operation.
Venting triggers a host of additional regulatory procedures and safety protocols, Lopez said, including placing personnel with air monitors on neighboring property.
If monitors detect dangerous gases such as hydrogen sulfide near residences, then venting is halted. Venting can take place only in certain conditions, including when wind direction is away from residences.
An air-monitoring unit was installed on Hayden’s property May 22 by Kinder Morgan when the well was installed, at the request of the landowner. The well site also has fixed air monitors per regulations.
During a routine test on Aug. 22, it was discovered the audible alarm on Hayden’s air-monitoring unit was not functioning, officials said. It was repaired a short time later. The visual alarm was functioning, officials said, and according to data reports, the air-quality detector of the device was also working properly and did not record dangerous gas levels.
Kinder Morgan said the COGCC has asked the firm to meet certain conditions before restarting operations. The requests include bringing in a toxicologist to review the air-quality parameters at the well site and investigating alternative venting options.
Hayden said he is not against Kinder Morgan but wants to make sure he and his family are safe living next to a well site.
“Its unnerving when you smell gas and the alarm is not functioning,” he said. “Living next to a well is not very relaxing. There is a certain amount of fear about the unknown gases coming out of there.”
He said more information is needed for neighbors regarding venting, and what they should do to protect themselves when dangerous gases are detected.
“The workers know what to do; I feel like we are more guessing,” Hayden said.
At the meeting, Kinder Morgan said smells from the well venting were mercaptans, naturally occurring gas that has a putrid smell but does not present a significant health hazard.
Commissioner Jim Candelaria urged Kinder Morgan to conduct educational outreach for community members to explain the drilling processes, including venting and the associated safety protocols.
Kinder Morgan executives agreed that was a good idea, and they have begun planning on an upcoming education program for the public.