State health department to fly over oil and gas sites to monitor for methane 

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Contact: Andrew Bare, 720-425-2736 (mobile),


REMOTE (July 16): Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment took to the skies this week, completing the state’s first airborne survey designed to monitor for methane and other emissions at major oil and gas sites in the Denver-Julesburg Basin. The initial flight is the first of many scheduled for 2021. The aerial surveys will focus on areas north and northwest of Denver in Boulder, Weld and Larimer counties.

The state is funding the aerial surveys with money from a settlement between the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) and Kerr McGee that was related to the tragic 2017 explosion and resulting loss of lives in Firestone. This week’s survey was the department’s first flight — CDPHE will use the flight to both gather data on methane emissions and prepare for a larger concentrated aerial survey effort in September and October.

“Between these aerial survey flights, a new mobile monitoring van we’ll take possession of in August and enhanced satellite and remote sensing tools, we’re bringing precision technology to the task of monitoring for emissions,” said Garry Kaufman, director of CDPHE’s Air Pollution Control Division. “The state of Colorado takes this work seriously, and we’ve proven we’re willing to invest time and resources to ensure we’re getting it right.”

The department’s aerial survey work will have four phases, and the department is working with the University of Arizona, Colorado State University, Scientific Aviation (a private company based in Boulder), the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland.  CDPHE and COGCC will also support the aerial work with ground monitoring and inspections to verify data and monitor emissions at smaller operations.

“We are committed to deploying advanced technology and the most capable tools to get a clear picture of methane and other emissions in the state,” said Shaun McGrath, director of environmental health and protection at CDPHE. “The resulting data will inform how we approach regulating oil and gas operations and other emitting sites in Colorado.”

The boundaries of the aerial survey project are available online in this image and the survey area is within the green border.