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Colorado flooding exposes risk to state's oil and gas drilling

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Andy Cross/The Denver Post/AP

(Read caption) Liquid leaks from a tank south of Milliken, Colo., last week as flood waters are started to recede.

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Torrential rain earlier in the month caused mass flooding across the state of Colorado, a state that in recent years has experienced a boom in oil and gas drilling and production due to the development of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies.

Thousands of wells have been drilled across the state, and whilst operators shut off any equipment located in flood-prone areas, so far more than 37,000 gallons of oil have spilt as a result of damage caused by the floodwater, and the states oil and gas industry is rushing around trying to clean up the leaks as fast as possible.

Many holding tanks have been toppled, spilling their contents. Dan Kelly, the vice president of Noble Energy’s department in the state, said that “there was a tremendous amount of I think earth moved in some cases to where the foundations to some of these tanks actually washed out underneath them.” 

Noble has reported four separate spills of a total of almost 9,000 gallons of oil. Kelly explained that in some areas the water has washed away the oil downstream, but in many others they are working to clean-up the spilled oil, and there are also some sites still remain inaccessible and therefore they cannot yet begin any clean-up operations.

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