BP American Production Co. was fined $40,000 on Monday for a December 2016 spill near Bayfield that leaked coal-bed methane-produced water into Sauls Creek.
The penalty was levied at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s monthly meeting in Denver, as part of the commission’s consent agenda, in which matters are not generally discussed by the board.
According to state documents, regulators with the COGCC requested the fine after determining the spill violated several state regulations, notably, failing to protect waters of the state from pollution.
On the morning of Dec. 13, 2016, BP was notified that a 6-inch fiberglass gathering line was found leaking at a site about four miles west of Bayfield on U.S. Forest Service land off County Road 527 (Forest Service Road 608).
At the time, BP could not say how long the spill had been occurring or how much “produced water” – a byproduct of oil and gas production – had been released into the surrounding area.
BP claimed in a follow-up letter in March 2017 that it is likely the pipeline cracked “suddenly and it was detected soon after it occurred.” It is still not clear how much produced water leaked as a result of the break.
After discovering the spill, BP closed the line, shut down 17 wells and constructed a temporary earthen dam to contain the produced water from spilling further downstream in Sauls Creek.
While BP claims Sauls Creek – an intermittent stream that flows into Beaver Creek, a tributary of the Los Piños River – was dry at the time of the spill, COGCC inspectors say the waterway “contained runoff from snow melt.”
Regardless, BP reported two days after the spill it had recovered at least 150 barrels – about 6,300 gallons – of produced water mixed with snowmelt.
“BP works hard every day to prevent releases like the one that led to today’s enforcement action,” BP spokesman Brett Clanton wrote in an email. “Safety of people and minimizing the impact of our operations on the environment will remain our highest priorities.”
Clanton did not immediately respond to requests seeking updated information on the spill.
In March, the COGCC issued a “Notice of Alleged Violation” to BP, claiming the company failed to install proper working equipment, take precautions to prevent spills and prevent its operations from polluting a state waterway.
BP filed a response March 17 disputing the claims.
Additionally, BP said water and soil samples taken after the spill showed the chemical makeup of the produced water that was released posed no danger to the surrounding ecosystem.
The company stated further it had repaired the pipeline to prevent further leaks.
COGCC staff wrote in its report to the board, “BP America is continuing to remediate impacts to soil from the spill.”