Denver City Council on Monday approved a new contract to maintain the inactive oil and gas rigs at DIA, and added money to an existing contract that will pay to permanently shut down two of these wells this year.
Lawmakers approved a $2.3 million contract with PetroPro Engineering and added $1.5 million to an existing contract with Bohler Well Service. The addition brings this latter contract’s total value to $2.8 million. The money comes from DIA’s own coffers.
None of the 64 oil and gas wells at DIA are producing anything right now. The airport owns and manages all of them, according to airport spokesperson Emily Williams. Williams added at least 62 wells are operational, but they have been sitting idle since May 2018. Most of the wells were in place in the area when Denver annexed the land from Adams County in 1988 to build the airport.
Williams said seven wells have been “plugged and abandoned,” that is, closed permanently, since May 2018, Williams said. She added that the contract with Bohler includes services to permanently close two more wells this year. This process includes pumping cement and/or putting mechanical plug into a well, then capping it with a plate or cap.
This contracts adds more capacity for contract workers to complete this work and to perform testing at 34 wells, which is required for those sites this year by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, according to Rachel Marion, senior director of government affairs at DIA.
Marion said the contract with PetroPro Engineering will help manage the inactive wells, which in industry lingo are referred to as being “shut in.” So even though the wells aren’t producing oil or gas, Marion said they are still pressurized and could be turned back on at some point, so they need to be monitored. The contract will pay to ensure the wells are compliant with environmental regulations.
Discussions for what to do with the airport wells have been ongoing since they were shut off in 2018. Marion said there are still no plans in place to bring them back online. It’s up to Denver City Council to approve restarting production there, Marion said.
Councilmember Amanda Sawyer supports giving voters more authority on whether to permanently close more wells. She announced her proposal in December 2019.
But she said in a statement on Monday prior the council meeting she’s not going to put forth a bill, choosing to honor the request made by Gov. Jared Polis last year to keep all oil and gas-related initiatives off the ballot. Polis asked for the pause to allow for the full implementation a law he signed in 2019 to overhaul regulations in the oil and gas industry.