Fire & Explosions at Stromberger Pad in Windsor, Colorado on 12/22/17

by Duane Nichols on January 7, 2018

Fire & Explosions Rock Oil Well Pad in Windsor, Colorado

Windsor Explosion and Fire at Stromberger Oil Well Pad in Colorado

From a Commentary by Wendell Bradley, PhD Physicist, Windsor, Colorado

Regional air quality devices monitor ozone via probes on towers. They show that Windsor has been out of ozone compliance since 2008, thus has been under a long term health threat.

Windsor’s over-the-limit amount of ozone derives from industrial oil development permitted within its residential neighborhoods.

Windsor’s offending ozone is a decay product of oil-derived Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) of which benzene is the most toxic. There is no safe level of benzene. It attacks every organ in one’s body and causes cancer.

On December 22, 2017, a leaking valve at Windsor’s Stromberger oil-well pad led to a fire and several explosions that threatened health and safety for the entire Town and its surrounding region.

The pad’s escaping methane gas and benzene vapors explosively caught fire. This can happen for methane concentrations in air between 4 and 14 percent, less for benzene.

Leaking methane, during atmospheric inversions, can creep into municipal areas until it ignites and causes an explosion. A natural gas tanker-ship on Lake Erie leaked methane gas into Cleveland, Ohio where it collected, then exploded destroying approximately one square mile of that city.

Apparently, given the atmospheric inversion on the night of Windsor’s pad explosion, Windsor was in danger of creep and devastating explosion, had the gas not burned on site.

Ordinarily fugitive natural gas (mostly methane), being lighter than air, rises whilst decaying into ozone, and finally dissipates without explosion. Methane is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and nontoxic.

The benzene component of a pad’s gas leak, however, is heavier than air. As a consequence, benzene (highly toxic and also explosive) collects in lower lying areas where it may remain for days, undetected, finally decaying into ozone.

The main reason oil industry personnel wear hazmat suits with breathing devices upon arrival at uncontrolled gas leaks on well pads (as they did at Windsor’s Ochsner blowout, 2013) is to avoid immediate benzene poisoning.

Windsor Severance Fire Rescue (WSFR) personnel should know the benzene levels at any oil pad’s leak before entering the site unmasked. Benzene levels will not be measured by the pad’s operator and likely will be extremely high.

Also, prohibitive benzene levels cannot be determined by the ‘big picture’ readings of a VOC meter.

The most efficient, economic way to test for a benzene determination of pad-entry safety is via deployment of dreagger tubes. Later measurement for benzene safety in the pad’s surrounding areas will be tricky and difficult because of its creep and collected concentrations into low lying areas.

Due to the separation and creep of benzene from the larger methane volumes, VOC metering will not provide adequate public protections.

Since it has been amply demonstrated that adequate public health protections and safety cannot be provided in municipal areas for ubiquitous, ongoing well pad negligence leading to highly dangerous releases by any of the means under state regulation (COGCC, CDPHE), it is incumbent on municipal officials to take direct action.

One possibility would be for municipalities to impose a temporary moratorium on all further oil Exploration and Production (E&P) activity until health and safety issues can be assessed and resolved.

Local, temporary moratoria are not precluded by any current state rulings or powers. Indeed, the recent Appellant Court (Martinez) ruling virtually makes local, direct protective actions mandatory as environmental concerns must not get short shrift.

NOOA’s regional ozone monitors detected such high levels of the decay products of Windsor’s negligent, uncontrolled, highly toxic gas releases attending its Stromberger oil pad explosions on Dec 22, 2017 that residents within a 20 mile radius should have been warned, for days, not to go out of doors.

No regional or municipal warnings were given by officials for the impacted areas. Local and Denver news media seemed unaware of any serious dangers. Their coverage seemed routine, assuming the incident was only another minor oil-related accident and fire.

The computer-generated NOOA ozone maps, representing the above monitoring, painted the large, impacted area in dark red. That map’s legend indicates that as long as that coloring persists on the map area residents should, “Stay inside, behind closed doors”.

Dangerous ozone spikes were detected all the way to Boulder.


UPDATE January 3, 2018: Explosion Victim Recovers; Wife Thanks ‘Whoever Was Watching Over Him’

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