2022 Colorado Spills
Apr 10, 2023
Oil and gas producers in Colorado reported an increase in drilling-related spills in 2022. The amount of oil and drilling-related materials reported spilled in Colorado increased by 24 percent from 2021 to 2022, and the number of spills reported in Colorado increased 11 percent, from 411 to 453.
Of these spills, 53 percent were in Weld County, which has had the highest percentage of spills in the state each year. These spills impacted communities, with at least 61 occurring within 500 feet of a water well. The number could be higher, as around a quarter of all reported spills were missing information on their proximity to a water well. Similarly, at least 35 spills occurred within 500 feet of an occupied building, but only around half of spills included information on their proximity to an occupied building. Finally, at least 99 spills occurred within 500 feet of surface water, but around 30 percent of spills were missing information on their proximity to surface water.
Oil production was up four percent in 2022 compared to 2021, while the total reported volume of oil and drilling-related liquid spilled was up 24 percent. The total number of reported spills in 2022 increased by 11 percent compared to 2021. Both of these metrics suggest the state is losing ground in its mission to reduce drilling-related spills.
Notably, PDC Energy reported a 290 percent increase in the number of drilling-related spills it was responsible for in 2022 as compared to 2021. Over the same period, PDC Energy reported a 15 percent increase in profit, from $1.5 billion in 2021 to $2.8 billion in 2022.
Because Colorado regulators allow operators to report spill volumes in ranges rather than with distinct values, it’s not possible to calculate the company with the largest percent increase in spill volume for 2022, which is why we used the total number of spills to calculate percent increase from 2021 to 2022 for the top five spillers in the state.
A few notes about the data
Colorado allows operators to use a range to report volume data, therefore the volume estimates in this report are minimums. Since spill data is self-reported by the oil and gas companies responsible for the spills, the true number of spills and volume of spilled material in Colorado is likely higher than those included in this report. Finally, the methodology used to calculate this year’s report differs from that of past years’ reports. Therefore, data from this year’s report should not be used in combination with data from prior years.