Well Integrity Report Highlights Path to Safer Oil and Gas Operations

EDF statement from Adam Peltz, Senior Attorney, Energy

June 17, 2019
Matt McGee, (512) 691-3478, mmcgee@edf.org

(DENVER, Colo.) The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) today released the findings of a review of its policies on well integrity and safety. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper asked the non-partisan State Oil and Gas Regulatory Exchange (SOGRE) to review the state’s safety standards after the 2017 Firestone home explosion caused by a flowline failure killed two people and sent two others to the hospital. That same year, a major well integrity failure in Hudson created safety concerns and spilled thousands of gallons of oil and produced water.

The SOGRE report made 45 recommendations for improving well integrity at Colorado’s 60,000+ oil and gas wells, and the COGCC found merit in 40 of the 45 suggested improvements. The common-sense reforms include improved cementing practices and quality standards, and regular statewide monitoring of well pressures.  

“Too many of Colorado’s oil and gas wells are an accident waiting to happen, and the COGCC deserves credit for taking a comprehensive look at well safety.

“This report is a clear blueprint for state action to protect the safety of those working in the energy industry and Colorado families as well as Colorado’s air and water quality. With these solutions in hand, the COGCC should launch a well integrity rulemaking as soon as possible this year to ensure the state remains a leader in responsible energy production.”


Well integrity refers to the prevention of leaks or explosions at oil and gas wells. Lack of action on the issue prompted public outcry under previous administrations, but in addition to being a focus of Gov. Hickenlooper’s response to the 2017 Firestone explosion, the legislature made well integrity a key priority with the passage of SB 181. The bill requires COGCC to update well integrity safety rules, which are over a decade old and currently lag behind those in other states.

Well integrity is a serious issue in Colorado, where a larger share of wells than the national average have been found to have pressure problems, which is the precursor to leaks. Nationally, lapses in well integrity have causes disasters like the 2015 Aliso Canyon leak, a 2018 Ohio blowout that lasted three months and a 2018 Oklahoma failure that killed five workers, including one Coloradoan.

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