Oil and Gas 101

Did you know that the development of oil and gas in Colorado began over 150 years ago and that Weld County is ranked fourth in the nation for oil and gas production?

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Continued development of oil and natural gas is critical because it helps support our communities. Oil and natural gas account for over one-third of Colorado's power and provide the most affordable energy sources. In addition, oil and natural gas are responsible for reducing Colorado's CO2 emissions by half. The oil and gas industry supports and creates Colorado jobs and generates more than $1 billion annually in revenues to state and local governments, school districts, and special districts—funding schools, parks, and roads across the state.

 

Oil and natural gas are formed when layers of buried plants and animals are exposed to intense heat and pressure over thousands of years. The energy that the plants and animals originally obtained from the sun is stored in the form of oil and natural gas. This energy generates electricity that can power our cars, buses, trains, computers and phones, and heat and cool our homes and offices.

 

Oil and natural gas are the building blocks for thousands of products we use and rely upon daily. But, they do so much more than heat our homes, cook our food, and fuel our cars. In many cases, the electricity generated to power electric cars comes from natural gas because it is a cleaner alternative for generating electricity. 

 

If you would like to learn more about developing oil and gas in your community, keep reading.

Phases of Energy Development

Below is a brief description of each phase of the development process

As we develop new wells and maintain our current wells in your community, our highest priority is to conduct our business in a manner that protects the health, safety and welfare of communities, our employees, and the environment. We will work with you to provide up-to-date information and mitigate impacts to the greatest extent possible.

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1

Pad Construction

(30-45 days per pad)

  • Standard construction equipment prepares the well site. 

  •  A wall may be installed to reduce or minimize noise and light during development.

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2

Surface Casing Set

(1-2 days per well)

  • A drilling rig begins the underground construction process by installing steel pipe and cement (surface casing) to protect groundwater.

  • Surface casing is set at least 50’ below the aquifer, which is typically at least 1,000’ below the surface.

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Horizontal Drilling

(4-6 days per well)

  • A production rig arrives and drills to a depth of 7,000 to 8,000 feet.

  • The horizontal portion of the wellbore can extend more than 2 miles. 

  • Additional layers of protective steel casing and cement are installed.

3

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4

Well Completions

(6-9 days per well)

  • Well completions consists of: hydraulic fracturing, flowback, well clean-out and tubing installation. 

  • Hydraulic Fracturing:

    • T​he completions phase starts with hydraulic fracturing which is a highly engineered technology developed in the 1940s to enhance production of oil and natural gas from tight rock formations more than a mile below the earth’s surface.

    • How does it work? A mixture of water (90%), sand (9.5%) and additives (.05%) are pumped under high pressure down the wellbore to create hairline fractures in the rocks over a mile below the earth’s surface. The sand props open the fractures to allow for oil and natural gas to flow to the wellbore, while the additives – like ones commonly found in ice cream, gum, etc. – reduce friction and prevent bacteria formation and build up. 

    • Fracturing takes about 3-5 days per well and is required on most oil and gas wells in the U.S. When hydraulic fracturing is finished, there is a break in activity as the hydraulic fracturing equipment is removed and preparations are made for the next stage. 

  • Flowback: Approximately ten days after hydraulic fracturing the wells are opened and oil and gas flows into the mobile production facility. This flowback is a closed loop system meaning it is completely contained and there are no associated odors or emissions. The oil and gas collected from the wells is sold and any water recovered is sent to sealed temporary tanks. 

  • Well clean-out and Tubing: After hydraulic fracturing we remove excess sand to facilitate efficient production.  Using a workover rig, flexible coil tubing is inserted the entire length of each well to help circulate sand out of the well and prepare it for production.

  • Tubing installation: After the excess sand is cleaned out of the wells they are now ready for the production tubing to be installed with the use of a workover rig. 

Production Facility Construction

(30-45 days per facility)

  • Production facilities are constructed adjacent to the wells to collect and separate the oil, natural gas and water that are produced. Facility construction is 30-45 days of work done in stages over a period of about four months.  

  • The majority of our wells are monitored via remote automation. 

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6

Reclaim Well Site

(30 days per pad)

  • Once development phases are complete, the pad is reclaimed to the largest extent possible to match the existing landscape. 

  • Each well will produce energy vital to the health and welfare of our communities for decades to come. 

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Energy Production, Operation and Reclamation

Operating and Maintaining Existing Wells

  • Timeline: Wells can produce oil and gas for as long as 20 to 40 years.

  • Occasionally maintenance requires using large equipment such as a workover rig, as shown in this picture.

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Retiring Existing Wells

  • (2-4 weeks) When an oil and gas well no longer economically produces oil and natural gas, the well is retired, a process also called Plug and Abandonment, or P&A. This procedure is regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

  • After well retirement, the surrounding site is restored to match the existing landscape.

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