New Study Looks at Frequency of Oil and Gas Explosions in Colorado

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently said the home explosion in Firestone, Colorado, that killed two people was a “freak accident.” But a new study by the Colorado School of Public Health indicates that accidents like this may not be so uncommon.

A home in Weld County, Colorado, with an oil drilling rig nearby.
Credit: Grace Hood/CPR News.

“What I would tell people is read your deed carefully and be aware of what’s going on around you,” said John Adgate about the need for families moving into areas with oil and gas developments to do due diligence. “What happened in Firestone had to do with a flow line being cut and that, I don’t know the frequency of that happening. As the governor said, he considered it a freak accident. My message would be that accidents happen and we need to manage the risks as best we can.”

Adgate chairs the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the School of Public Health, located at the University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine. He was a coauthor of the study.

Published in the July issue of the journal Energy Research and Social Sciences, the report says there were at least 116 fires and explosions at oil and gas operations in the state in a 10-year period between 2006 and 2015. With about 53,000 active oil and gas wells in Colorado, that comes out to about 0.03 reported incidents over the course of the study. Adgate says, however, there are questions about the reporting that takes place.

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