Colorado Ground Water Association
Oil, Gas, and Water – How do they mix in Colorado?
June 17, 2011
Summary of Seminar
By Tracy Kosloff, P.E., Colorado Division of Water Resources
The following is a brief summary of information and topics presented at the seminar.
The morning session focused on the legal aspects and administrative framework of produced water in Colorado.
1. Water Rights & Administration of Produced Water in Colorado
Dick Wolfe & Kevin Rein (Division of Water Resources)
The evolution of administering produced water in Colorado was discussed. Ground water in Colorado is considered to be tributary until proven otherwise. The 2009 Colorado Supreme Court ruling in the Vance v. Wolfe case required the State Engineer to issue well permits for coal bed methane wells. Other types of oil and gas wells that do not beneficially use produced water do not need a permit. Legislation that followed the Vance decision gave the State Engineer the authority to proceed with rulemaking for the determination of produced nontributary ground water. There have been rulemakings across the state resulting in the mapping of several nontributary formations (Formations Mapping Link).
2. Produced Nontributary Ground Water, Litigation and Legislation
Sarah Klahn (White & Jankowski, LLP), Ken Wonstolen (Beatty & Wozniak, P.C.), John Cyran (Colorado Attorney General’s Office)
Ongoing litigation regarding produced nontributary ground water was discussed along with other topics. The current points of litigation include questions regarding whether the State Engineer gave proper notice and followed due process during the produced nontributary ground water rulemaking. There is also litigation regarding the nontributary findings for two of the formations.
3. Morning Panel
The panel continued to discuss the topics from the individual presentations and responded to questions from the audience.
The afternoon presentations covered the range of methods that can be used to make a nontributary determination for oil and gas wells. The individual presentations are not summarized below, but generally, the goal of these efforts is to determine the nontributary boundary, which is the point where stream depletions are less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the rate of withdrawal from the well. The presenters showed how the most complex models can be helpful, but are not always the best method for a variety of reasons including a lack of data. Issues regarding the treatment and beneficial use of produced water and produced water disposal were also discussed.
4. Technical Aspects of Successful Nontributary Determinations in the Nelson Formation and Sand Wash Basin
Jacob Bauer (Martin & Wood)
5. Delineation of the Nontributary Area of the Niobrara Formation in the North Park Basin for the Oil and Gas Produced Water Rules
Jon Ford (Leonard Rice)
6. Coalbed Methane Produced Water – Production, Management and Disposal in the Northern San Juan Basin
Kyle Siesser (Southern Ute Indian Tribe Department of Energy)
7. Stream Depletion Impacts of Produced Water
Debbie Hathaway (S.S. Papadopulos & Associates)
8. Afternoon Panel
The panel continued to discuss the topics from the individual presentations and responded to questions from the audience. This panel discussed whether there may be other ways to determine that water is nontributary such as depth of the formation, total dissolved solids levels, water age, and other methods. They also discussed some of the limitations they have observed in stream depletion calculations.