What Happens If We Have Wildfires in Texas... Amidst the Gas Well Boom?Somervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


What Happens If We Have Wildfires in Texas... Amidst the Gas Well Boom?

24 June 2007 at 6:28:10 AM

Article in the Aspen, Colorado newspaper points out another aspect of the hazards involved in fighting wildfires when there are gas well rigs all over the area. Here in Somervell County, with the Barnett Shale gas boom, we've considered what would happen with commercial waste injection wells, or water wells running dry, etc... but what if we had a summer like we did last with far-ranging, out of control gas fires?

Though the gas flowing through most producing wells can be turned off remotely and wells are typically surrounded by a few acres of cleared land that help keep them at a defensible distance from encroaching flames, gas extraction brings a slew of other hazards that managers are hoping to tackle through collaborative planning.

For example, a large number of energy workers evacuating from an oncoming wildfire along narrow wellpad-access roads, as well as increased service truck traffic, could exacerbate the risk of auto accidents for responding firefighters, said Hal Coombs, the Upper Colorado River unit's Rifle-based fire management officer who is heading up the planning effort. Some of those roads go up narrow canyons and only have one outlet, increasing the risk of a blaze trapping firefighters or workers.

Meanwhile, pipelines running under and on top of the ground from wells make cutting fire lines with bulldozers an explosive proposition, Coombs explained, and chemicals stored on a well site in condensate tanks or open pits could lead to a hazardous materials situation should a fire encroach.

Still, Campbell worries about big fires.

"It gets you going when you get a 100-foot flame going near a gas well," he said, and if a flame wall passes over a vented condensate tank, chances are it will burn.

"Coordination centers in the Southwest know. You tell them you've got a gas well threatened, and you get an air tanker. Each one of these well sites is worth $1 million and may produce $1 million a day worth of gas," he said, not to mention the safety issues involved.

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