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Disposal Well Operator Wants To Up Injection, Despite Link To Earthquakes

Jim Hill

The owner of a waste water disposal well that may have caused earthquakes in the Greeley area now wants to increase the amount it can inject underground by 20 percent – even though smaller earthquakes are still happening.

Through a Colorado Open Records Act request, BizWest reporter Steve Lynn discovered that the company, NGL Water Solutions DJ LLC has submitted a request to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, asking for permission to inject 2,000 more gallons of waste water into a fracking fluid disposal well.

The first big earthquake was felt in the Greeley area at the end of May 2014, then another followed in June. An investigation into whether NGL Water Solutions DJ LLC broke any laws is pending.  The company was allowed to resume using the disposal well three weeks after the second earthquake, but at lower volumes and lower pressures.

"In every month since this company has resumed activity, there have been earthquakes occurring," BizWest's Lynn said. "They've been below magnitude 2.5  on the Richter scale. There was one that was 2.4, so pretty close to being a felt earthquake."

Steve Lynn's report, published Friday, includes details of the injection activity and the history of earthquakes associated with waste water injection in the area. You can read his report now at BizWest.

In an interview that aired during All Things Considered, Lynn spoke about the current situation with the well and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's response.

Interview Highlights

On The University Of Colorado, Boulder Scientists Who Have Been Monitoring The Seismic Activity

"They've seen a number of very small earthquakes that have occurred east of Greeley since this company has resumed waste water injection. But, they say that it's not at a level that has caused them concern. They are paying close attention and think that the state oil commission is taking it pretty seriously."

On The Permit Application To Inject More Wastewater In The Well

"Meanwhile this company wants to inject 2,000 more gallons of water per day into this well, which would exceed its  original permit requirement of 10,000."

On The State's Response

"They did a test in July that showed that this water that was being injected was pouring into these fissures of rock and perhaps leading to these earthquakes. So the company actually cemented off the bottom 400 feet of the well, so it's now 10,400 feet deep, therefore not as close to the epicenter of the earthquake. State officials think that's going to help, they also say that has decreased the number of earthquakes as well as their size."

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