Gas bubbling up in Western Slope creek
Residents of Dry Hollow south of Silt believe that natural gas bubbling to the surface of Divide Creek was freed by gas well drilling operations nearby.
But EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) Inc., the company that owns most of the gas wells in the vicinity, is not in a hurry to admit responsibility for the new gas seep.
“We are very concerned about this issue,” said Walter Lowry, director of community and industry relations for EnCana, “and we want to do everything we can to identify the source. We have no reason to think right now that this seep is related to our activity.”
Brian Macke, deputy director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said his agency is working as fast as possible to find the source of the Divide Creek gas seep, in concert with industry, residents and Garfield County government.
The gas was first noticed bubbling from the bottom of the stream by landowner Steve Thompson March 30. “For the last 23 years, I’ve been coming down here in the spring and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Thompson said.
Jaime Adkins of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission office in Parachute and Doug Dennison, Garfield County oil and gas auditor, visited the site April 1 and 2, and both said they believe the natural gas is causing the subbles.
Thompson also notified his neighbors, Lisa Bracken and her parents, Bob and Shorty Eicher, on April 1. The Eicher family owns 60 acres along the creek, downstream from Thompson’s 90 acres, and manage their place as a wildlife sanctuary.
Divide Creek flows through a broad, partially wooded canyon about 400 feet deep on Thompson’s property.
A gas drilling derrick stands above and to the southeast of the gas seep, very near to the rim of the canyon. That well and several others nearby are owned by EnCana, a Denver-based corporation that is a branch of a worldwide oil and gas production company.
On Thompson’s property, Divide Creek sweeps though a wide, gentle ess-curve on the canyon floor. In the middle of the ess, the creek widens and flows among water-rounded rocks.
As the creek splits around a small island, its right branch is disturbed by hundreds of bubbles coming to the surface. The bubbles, one-half to three-quarters inch in diameter, float downstream 10 to 15 feet before bursting.
“Those bubbles aren’t anything like the bubbles that form in rapids,” Bracken said. “They are individual bubbles, not the rafts of foam formed by whitewater. And they can be seen rising in strings from the bottom of the creek.”