Learn the Facts

Get the facts about fracking. What is it? How do we benefit from it? Is fracking safe? Is it regulated?

For more information, visit our blog and check out the list of additional resources below. 

The oil and gas industry is a major economic driver in Weld County and in all of Colorado.  Even amid a decline in oil prices, the industry supports over 100,000 jobs and drives over $30 billion of economic activity within the state.
The total assessed valuation of Weld County has more than doubled since 2010 largely thanks to increased oil and gas development.  Oil and gas activity leads directly to increases in agricultural land values, and the economic stimulation from the industry boosts the demand for housing.  Additionally, due to increased property tax revenues from oil and gas activity, the Weld County Commissioners were able to lower the County’s mill levy which helps to further increase property values.
The average wage for an oil and gas industry worker is about $77,000.  Given the rapid growth in employment in Weld County largely due to oil and gas development, wages also grew rapidly within the County.
In 2013, the United States passed Saudi Arabia as the #1 oil producing nation and Russia as the #1 natural gas producing nation in the world thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) technologies.  Colorado ranks #6 among states for natural gas production and #7 for oil production.  89% of the energy produced in Colorado comes from Weld County.
Colorado set a new record for oil production in 2015, with Weld County alone producing over 100 million barrels of oil.  This new record comes despite a downturn in oil prices as industry operators were able to refine the efficiency of their processes.
The oil and gas industry contributed significantly to Weld County having the fastest employment growth rate in the country.  Equally important, for every job directly supported by the oil and gas industry, another 2.45 jobs are indirectly supported, meaning the industry is a major economic driver for Weld County and for Colorado as a whole.

Common Questions About Fracking

Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, is one part of a larger process to produce oil and natural gas.  After a well has been drilled to a depth more than a mile below the Earth’s surface, a mixture of water, sand and some chemicals is pumped down the well at a high pressure to create hairline fractures in a shale rock formation, allowing oil and natural gas molecules to flow back into the well and up to the surface. This video produced by ConocoPhillips provides a good visual demonstration of the process. Please note that the video is based on the Eagle Ford shale formation in Texas, which is roughly 5,000 feet deeper than Colorado’s Niobrara shale formation.
There are no confirmed cases of groundwater contamination in Weld County due to fracking.  By state law, oil and gas companies must have the water tested both before drilling ever takes place and after all wells on a site are complete in order to confirm that no new substances have been introduced into the aquifer as a result of the drilling and fracking operations.  Fracking occurs more than a mile below the Earth’s surface, while most aquifers are between 200 and 500 feet below the surface.  There is more than a mile of impenetrable rock between where fracking occurs and the aquifers.  The wells themselves are constructed so that there will be a minimum of two layers each of steel and cement encasing the well as it passes through the aquifer.  Upon completion, every single well is monitored from a remote facility 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and can be shut off instantly if any leak is detected.

To go even further to ensure safety, the Weld County Commissioners approved an ordinance that allows any Weld County resident that is dependent on ground water to have their water source tested annually for contaminants whether there is oil and gas development on their property or not.

The EPA released a study in August 2015 finding “no systemic risk” of water contamination from fracking.

Fracking has been used in Weld County for more than 50 years, and in that time over 22,000 wells have been drilled and completed.  The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment publishes county health data comparing cancer rates, birth defects, low birth weights, respiratory conditions, and other health conditions.  Weld County has a lower rate of occurrence for every single one of the above mentioned conditions than the State as a whole.  With over 22,000 wells being constructed over many decades, if fracking posed a health risk, the evidence would be extremely clear by now.
Fracking is regulated by a variety of agencies at the municipal, state and federal levels.  The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) is the primary regulatory authority in Colorado.  COGCC regulates most of the highly technical, environmental, and sub-surface aspects of oil and gas development.  Local governments have the authority to regulate above-ground aspects such as noise, light, fencing and truck traffic.  Other agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), and others all regulate some aspects of oil and gas development.
Minimum “setbacks” are regulated by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC).  New oil and gas wells must be a minimum of 500 feet away from homes and other low occupancy structures.  New wells must be a minimum of 1,000 feet from high-occupancy buildings such as schools, office buildings and churches.  The industry, local governments and property owners have the opportunity to work together to select the best location for new wells.  Colorado also has the most stringent regulations in the country on emissions, protection against spills, and nuisance impacts such as noise, light and dust to best ensure the safety and quality of life of nearby residents.
Oil and natural gas development occurs in several stages.  The construction of a well pad takes about a week.  Drilling each individual well takes seven to ten days.  The hydraulic fracturing process then takes three to five days.  There are typically multiple wells on one pad, so the drilling and fracking processes are repeated for each well.  Finally, it will take another week to deconstruct the well pad, install the necessary tanks, separation equipment, pipelines.  After completion, the productive life of each well ranges from 20 to 30 years.
Earthquakes have not been tied to fracking.  They have however, been tied to wastewater injection wells used by the oil and gas industry and many other industries.  Wastewater injection wells are used to dispose of toxic water and other substances deep below the surface of the Earth between 10,000 and 12,000 feet—about twice the depth of fracking.  When pumped too fast, water at this depth can lubricate basement faults and cause minor seismic tremors.  Under Colorado’s stringent regulations, companies must conduct the proper geologic surveying to locate basement faults, then regulate their rate of injection.  When the oil and gas industry—or any other industry—adheres to these regulations, the risk of earthquakes should be eliminated. This article contrasts how Kansas and Oklahoma have handled earthquake issues, and fortunately for Coloradans, our state has tackled the issue in a similar manner as Kansas.

Stay Informed

Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter and get timely updates from the Energy Councils of Weld County.

Subscribe