Gas flares put on a light show
RIFLE – People living in Rifle and Silt saw a spectacular light show Monday, thanks to problems at a natural gas processing plant. Jim Golden watched the flaring from his home in south Rifle. “It was quite the spectacle,” he said. “I could hear it roaring inside the house.”He said the flame, which was as high as the 125-foot stack burning the gas, was visible from Monday afternoon, off and on, until 11:30 that night. “I estimate it burned from 1 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.,” Golden said. “The flame was over 100 feet high.”
EnCana was forced to shut down its compressors and flare or burn about 10 million cubic feet of gas.”EnCana’s West Rifle refrigeration plant experienced a freeze-up due to water in the … units on Sunday evening,” said EnCana spokeswoman Wendy Wiedenback.EnCana produces about 400 million cubic feet of gas daily, said operations manager Brad Ankrum. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average American household uses 90,000 cubic feet of gas annually.The loss was significant. “Yes it was a financial blow. Our business is to produce gas not to flare it,” he said.
Ankrum explained that water got into the lines that bring the gas from producing wells to the central processing plant. There the gas is cooled to remove heavier hydrocarbons before the gas goes into the transmission pipelines that carry it to markets across the country.Golden said he was concerned about the potential environmental hazards created by the burn. “What it does to our atmosphere is not good,” he said. “I can’t say they were negligent but they should be more diligent.”Although the amount of gas burned was significant, it did not pose a health or environmental threat, said Garfield County Environmental Health Manager Jim Rada.
Rifle Fire Marshall Kevin Whelan said the fire did not pose a threat to the community.”It was a controlled release of gas that was burned off,” he said. “We weren’t worried about it.”But it was something to see.”I drove home by it. It was impressive. It lit up the whole area,” Whelan said.