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Sabres rattle at Shell forum

by Clint Boehler
WALSENBURG — The latest of Shell Oil’s public forums was conducted at the Walsenburg Community Center on the evening of October 25. About 40 people were in attendance from the interested public and another 15 in attendance from the Citizens for Huerfano County (CHC) group.
Shell Oil Project Manager Philippe Heer opened the forum by introducing the Shell Oil Construction Superintendent Travis Sour, who provided an update on the progress at the Freeman 234 well on CR 530. Sour said the well site pad construction was finished and equipment would be coming in for assembly.
He said CR 520 leading off of Highway 69 had been reshaped and the grade on the roadway was now 10 percent, down from the original 15 percent, and the shoulders and abutments were enhanced and strengthened. New and improved culverts were installed.
Both CR 520 and CR 530 leading to the well site were well graveled and graded, providing an excellent roadway. In addition to the pad completion, he showed where large straw bales had been stacked to form a sound barrier, and to some degree, a privacy fence. Erosion guards have been installed around the entire drilling site.
Ineke Schwartz, the project Venture Support (Staffing), stated incoming personnel related to the rig construction phase will use local Walsenburg hotels and Dakota Campground for accommodations while plying their special trades to the site. The well drilling crews will also be housed locally and supported by local businesses. The drilling phase is expected to take at least 13 weeks alone.
Schwartz also said local subcontractors would be used, citing that Fred and Sons Trucking had already been contracted for work. She said the Acorn Travel Stop would support the big trucks and equipment and that numerous other local businesses will be used for catering and other services. She reports that this local utilization will result in a substantial cash flow to the community. She said she will provide a figure at a later date when all the tabulations are gathered.
Project Manager Philippe Heer reported that surveys and evaluations of properties in the surrounding area have been conducted to determine if any risk of contamination or environmental problems could arise. Cultural and water impact surveys have been conducted. Heer said there were no apparent risks to the area, even from horizontal drilling.
Heer said that rig transport issues were addressed and no roads will need to be closed due to rig transport. Further, there will be no rig transport after noon on weekends so as to not interfere with weekend travelers. All wide loads will have pilot cars. He said there will be continuous ground water sampling, not to set a baseline, rather as a courtesy response to the request from Dale Lyons of Gardner. Heer then opened the floor to questions.
First to query was Keli Kringel, a forum member and member of the CHC. Kringel argued the high risk of horizontal drilling to the infrastructure of the subsurface, causing possible fractures and leakage of gas and water. She said horizontal drilling would raise the risk of contamination.
Heer countered Kringel was utilizing incomplete data and was referencing surface maps and not subsurface geological plats. He said there are no dikes (underground cracks) to be affected. He further argued that the casings are doubled and sealed and pressure tested so no leakage can occur.
Kringel said leakage could occur from shifting underground. Both agreed that amount of shift could not be calculated. Kringel then argued that fracking in the well could allow toxic chemicals to leak out and reach the surface or contaminate underground water.
Heer argued they will not be doing any fracking on the Freeman 234 well as this was a test well and not a production well. Fracking has been used since 1947, with some very obvious improvements, to improve the liquid flow of an otherwise low producing well. After a couple of years’ production, wells may slow down and fracking may become necessary to bring production back up. Heer said the Freeman 234 well is not in that category.
Heer then recognized Dale Lyons from Gardner, who presented a lengthy powerpoint presentation on the environmental ills of drilling and the attendant health risks. Lyons presented what she titled, “A Holistic View of Energy Extraction.” Her emphasis was on chemicals and their effect not only on the human endocrine system, but also on the general health of the community.
She presented several demands to Shell Oil, particularly those involving fracking. She unequivocally stated, “Never frack any well in Huerfano County.” She also stated there should be frequent casing pressure monitoring and remedial sealing of casings to prevent contamination leakage. She concluded with a list of do’s and don’t for Shell oil to consider before drilling. She stated that eventually all drilling sites will, in some way, contaminate.
Katelyn Roberts, Community Relations Representative, reported the addition of a Shell Oil call-in phone number, 1-877-581-4031, that is checked daily for messages. She reminded everyone of the website and the local office at 126 E. 6th. in Walsenburg. The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission has toll free complaint hotline at 1-888-235-1101.
There will be a forum scheduled in December, and another forum on February 28, 2013.