May 14, 2012

SandBoxBlogs: KUNC "Inspector Shortage in Colorado Oil Fields Sparks Concerns"

Kirk Siegler:
"Each day, Jim Precup of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission logs about 400 miles criss-crossing the oil and gas fields of northeast Colorado.

“It’s absolutely staggering,” he says.

Not just the mileage, but also the workload.

Precup has to supervise his agency’s inspectors, but because there are so many wells, he’s also in charge of inspecting 12,000 himself.

“It’s not an easy job, it doesn’t suit everyone,” Precup said one early morning after making a quick coffee run at the Johnson’s Corner truck stop off Interstate 25 in northern Colorado.

From there, it was east into booming Weld County, where he spends most of his days.

Drill rigs, storage tanks, hauler trucks seem to be everywhere once you’re east of I-25 in the county; now home to one of the highest concentrations of oil and gas wells in the country. Drilling operations are sandwiched between homes, schools and stores and in the middle of farm fields.

Precup hops out of his truck to have a look at one of them. Inspectors can show up whenever they want, unannounced, and he climbs a ladder to the top of a large green, well tank. Precup pops the hatch to one of the tanks’ lids and peers inside.

He’s looking for potentially harmful gasses escaping from the well itself, and for spills seeping into the ground that could contaminate water below.

Things here look pretty good.

“All of this stuff is looked at by an inspector at a glance, just like that,” Precup says clapping his hands together. “Five to seven minutes we’d assess this, another 10-15 minutes we’ll be onto our next one....”
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