2014 Colorado Spills

Jan 12, 2015

2014 Colorado Spills

Jan 12, 2015

In 2014, Colorado was in the midst of a major oil and gas boom, but along with the boom came potential harm to our state’s lands, air, water, and communities. One of the most obvious impacts is the oil and chemical spills that occur during drilling and production activities. According to publicly-available data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), there were 712 spills in 2014, meaning that two spills occurred every day in Colorado. Here are the summary statistics for the spills that occurred in Colorado in 2014. All data are from the COGCC.

2014 state spills trackers

712 Spills Were Reported To The COGCC
160 Spills Contained Oil
Type of spillNumber
Produced Water413
Drilling fluids35
Flowback fluid7
No substance reported108

Note: total does not add up to 712 (the total number of spills in 2014) because some spills were composed of more than one type of fluid.

51 Spills Contained Over 5 Barrels (210 Gallons) of Oil

11% Of Spills Resulted In Water Contamination
  • 79 spills resulted in water contamination.
  • 235 spills, or 33%, occurred fewer than 50 feet from groundwater.
  • 279 spills, or 39%, occurred within 1,500 feet of surface water.
  • 245 spills occurred within 1,500 feet of a water well.

60 Spills Occurred Within 500 Feet of a Building
  • 60 spills, or nearly 10%, occurred within the 500-foot setback distance from buildings.
  • 143 spills occurred between 500 feet and 1,500 feet of a building.
  • Nearly 30% of all spills in 2014 occurred within 1,500 of a building.

Spills Impacted Livestock and Wetlands
  • 22 spills occurred in within 500 feet of cows, pigs, sheep, or other livestock.
  • 21 spills occurred within 500 feet of a wetland.
66% of Spills Occurred Within Just Two Counties
  • Weld County and Garfield County—two Colorado counties known for intensive oil and gas development—had the highest number of spills last year, at 346 and 128 spills each.
  • The other counties with the highest spills were Rio Blanco (53 spills), Las Animas (52 spills), and Adams (24 spills).
5 Operators Reported More Than Half of Spills
  • Five operators caused 365 spills-- 51 percent of total spills-- in Colorado in 2014: Noble Energy, Kerr McGee, WPX Energy, Pioneer Natural Resources, and Bonanza Creek.
  • At 123 spills, Noble Energy caused the most spills of any operator in Colorado.

As of January 2014, oil and gas companies had reported 495 spills in 2013 (this number was later updated to 600 spills).  Companies reported 402 spills in 2012. The spike in spills from oil and gas operations in Colorado can be attributed to two main factors: lower spills reporting thresholds that took effect during the summer of 2013 and increased oil and gas activity.

A map of spills that occurred between 2000 and 2013 is available here.