Mark and Erin Martinez.
Possible link between Anadarko-operated gas well and fatal Firestone home explosion
Oil and gas giant Anadarko has shut down some 3,000 wells in northern Colorado in the aftermath of the fatal explosion of a home some 200 feet from one of its old wells.
April 26, 2017 Environment/Energy
Despite suggestions that plumbing work may have led to last week’s fatal house explosion in Firestone, it looks as though a leak related to a nearby gas well may have been the cause.
In a statement this afternoon, oil and gas giant Anadarko acknowledged that it operates a vertical well that’s about 200 feet from the newly built house on Twilight Avenue that exploded April 17, killing brothers-in-law Mark Martinez and Joseph William Irwin III, both 42, and severely injuring Erin Martinez, Mark’s wife. A GoFundMe page has been created for the family.
The Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) are investigating the cause of the blast.
A source has told The Independent that personnel and trucks bearing Anadarko’s logo responded soon after the explosion, and that company personnel at and near the scene over the following days came in unmarked vehicles and clothes. They were apparently paying special attention to a feeder line that may have been severed near the home.
Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen wouldn’t respond to that report, nor to questions on other aspects of his company’s possible involvement.
“There’s a lot that we don’t know and I’m not going to comment other than what’s in the press release,” said Christensen, who’s based in Texas but is in Colorado this week.
The company says the nearby vertical well was drilled in 1993 by what it noted in its statement was “a previous operator.”
As a result of the explosion, Anadarko has shut down some 3,000 wells in northern Colorado in what it calls “an abundance of caution.”
Firestone is in Weld County, about 30 miles north of Denver. Housing tracts are being built in on the heavily-drilled land there.
News stories after the explosion reported that Irwin, a master plumber, was helping Mark Martinez install a hot water heater, apparently at or near the time of the explosion. The insinuation was that their work may have led to their deaths.
But that narrative sounded immediately curious to those who knew Irwin and his work, and became less plausible when Colorado’s Public Utilities Commission passed the investigation on to the COGCC, which regulates the oil and gas industry.
In a statement, the COGCC said that it has been investigating the incident since Friday, April 18. The investigation includes “directing environmental sampling and inspecting oil and gas wells in the vicinity, including an Anadarko oil and gas operation located approximately 170 feet southeast of the property, and reviewing their history.” The Commission says it is also evaluating additional steps to review activities in the region.
The 170-foot distance the COGCC cited is less than the 200-foot estimate Anadarko cited in its statement.
“While the well in the vicinity is one aspect of the investigation, this is a complex investigation and the origin and cause of the fire have not been determined,” Theodore Poszywak, Firestone’s fire chief, said in a statement that indicated his department is continuing to gather and analyze evidence to determine the cause of the blast. The department says it will release the findings to the public “without delay” when they are complete.
HOUSTON, TEXAS, April 26, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Anadarko Petroleum Corporation (NYSE: APC) provided the following statement regarding the tragic home explosion and fire in Firestone, Colo., that occurred on April 17.
"This terrible tragedy has left all of us with heavy hearts, and the families and their loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers," said Al Walker, Anadarko Chairman, President and CEO. "Words cannot express how saddened we are that this occurred in a community where many of our employees, their families, and friends live and work. We share the community's gratitude for the courageous response of neighbors and nearby construction crews who quickly came to the aid of the family, as well as the first responders and others who made sure surrounding homes were kept safe."
While there is still much that is not yet known regarding the potential contributing factors, Anadarko operates an older vertical well that was drilled by a previous operator in 1993 and is located approximately 200 feet from where the home was recently built. As such, the company has been working cooperatively with fire officials and state regulatory agencies in their investigations since the time of the accident.
While these events remain under active investigation and much remains to be determined, in an abundance of caution, since the company operates more than 3,000 producing vertical wells of the same vintage, it has taken proactive measures to shut in all vertical wells across the counties in northeast Colorado where it operates. The wells will remain shut in until the company's field personnel can conduct additional inspections and testing of the associated equipment, such as facilities and underground lines associated with each wellhead. Particular focus is being placed on areas where housing and commercial developments are occurring in close proximity to existing infrastructure. The wells will not be restarted until each has undergone and passed these additional inspections. Anadarko currently anticipates the process will take two to four weeks, depending on weather. The wells currently account for total production of about 13,000 net barrels of oil equivalent per day.
"Our teams will remain actively engaged with residents in the Firestone community," said Brad Holly, Anadarko Sr. Vice President, U.S. Onshore Exploration and Production. "Colorado residents must feel safe in their own homes, and I want to be clear that we are committed to understanding all that we can about this tragedy as we work with each investigating agency until causes can be determined."
This news release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Anadarko believes that its expectations are based on reasonable assumptions. No assurance, however, can be given that such expectations will prove to have been correct. A number of factors could cause actual results to differ materially from the projections, anticipated results or other expectations expressed in this news release, including the timing of operational activities and determinations or other factors related to investigatory efforts. See "Risk Factors" in the company's 2016 Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q and other public filings and press releases. Anadarko undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements.
Oil-gas wells shut down after Colorado home explosion
Originally published April 26, 2017 at 4:48 pm Updated April 26, 2017 at 6:06 pm
In this April 18, 2017, photo, an investigator with the Firestone Police places evidence markers on debris near a house that was destroyed in a deadly explosion in Firestone, Colo., on April 17.... (Matthew Jonas/The Daily Times Call via AP) More
The Associated Press
DENVER (AP) — Oil field crews are shutting down and inspecting more than 3,000 Colorado oil and gas wells as a precaution after a house explosion killed two people, but investigators haven’t determined whether a well caused the blast, officials said Wednesday.
Anadarko Petroleum said it operated a 24-year-old well about 200 feet (60 meters) from the site of the April 17 explosion and fire in the town of Firestone.
Fire department investigators said the well is part of their inquiry but they haven’t determined the cause of the explosion.
The blast killed Mark Martinez and Joseph William Irwin III. Erin Martinez, who was married to Mark Martinez, was badly burned. Irwin was her brother.
The proximity of subdivisions and wells is a source of contention in Colorado, where fast-growing cities sometimes overlap with lucrative oil and gas fields.
Conflicts have generated lawsuits and attempts to overhaul state rules, and the Legislature killed a proposal this year that would have increased the minimum distance between schools and new oil and gas facilities.
Anadarko said the well near the explosion was drilled in 1993 and that the house was built recently, but the year of construction wasn’t immediately available. The company said the well was drilled by another operator, which it did not identify.
Firestone, a community of about 10,000 people 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Denver, is in an oilfield.
Anadarko called the explosion a tragedy and expressed sympathy for the victims and their families. The company said it is cooperating with fire investigators and state regulators.
Anadarko said it will lose the equivalent of 13,000 barrels of oil a day while its 3,000 wells are turned off. A barrel is 42 gallons (151 liters).
Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen declined to disclose the estimated value of the product.
The company said the wells won’t resume operating until they are checked, and the process will take two to four weeks.
The wells being shut down and the one near the site of the explosion are all vertical, Anadarko said. Newer technology allows drilling rigs to bore vertically and then horizontally to reach oil or gas some distance away.
All the wells being shut down are about the same age as the one near the home, the company said.