Flammable water

So much natural gas is leaking into a Fort Lupton, Colorado couple's water well that they can light it on fire as it flows from their bathroom sink. From CBS4Denver.com:
 19 2009 03 20 320X240 Faucet The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission leaders say it's tried to find the origin of the leak. Director Dale Neslin says "We've looked at well compilation reports, taken gas samples to look for a match, done pressure testing and we've not been able to find the well that appears to be causing the problem."

The Ellsworths say they approached Noble Energy and Anadarko Petroleum - the two companies that operate the nearby wells - and begged for help. They say the companies initially refused to do anything. But, at the urging of the Oil and Gas Commission, they have now agreed to put in a water treatment system at the home.
Flammable Water Found In Ft. Lupton Home (via Fortean Times)


  1. Put in a treatment system and use the gas to heat your house! I bet they would find the leaking well pretty quickly then.

  2. Wait. I’m still working on the sentence “at the urging of the Oil and Gas Commission, they have now agreed to put in a water treatment system”.

    So who’s paying for it? The sentence isn’t terribly clear, but it seems that the oil companies are paying?

    I should think…nothing screams “Liability” like someone’s house bursting into flames when they turn on the faucet.

    If the homeowners are paying…um…what took so long!

  3. Is anyone else secretly both impressed and a little bit terrified by that thought process?

    “Why can I smell gas so strongly?”
    “Oh noes, there’s gas dissolved in our drinking water!”
    “…I wonder if we can light it?”
    “You’re thinking too small! I wonder whether we can light it while it’s still connected to the water main? Stand back, in the name of Science!(TM)”

  4. @6

    I actually think the pressure of the water putting out the fire, and the lack of oxygen the pipes would help prevent that disaster.

    Although I am impressed on how fast they can pull their hands away with that little match in the video :)

  5. This is a rather common phenomenon in areas with high levels of methane production in Wyoming, Colorado, the Dakota’s. Methane dissolves in water, which is often circulated in the gas wells to aid or regulate extraction. The water is introduced into the groundwater through subterranean fractures, porous rock formations, and degraded well casings. The contaminated water is then extracted by local municipal and private water wells.

  6. It just shows you is really in charge when the city has to crawl on it’s knees and beg the companies to do something.

  7. The natural gas drilling companies out here are omnipotent (in their eyes). You’ll never find another larger group of side talking shifty motherfuckers anywhere. >:|

  8. “taken gas samples to look for a match”

    have they tried taking matches, to look for the gas?

  9. I’ve heard of a few people in Alberta that have this, after natural gas wells go in their well water becomes saturated with it.

  10. Dumb question, how do they use a water heater without posing a huge fire hazard?

    Or did they never turn on the hot water (after all, ya get the ultimate hot water at the tap. ;)

    Yeah, it seems that separating the gas from the water would result in a free source of natural gas. Probably have to burn off excess to maintain pressure but it’d be cool to tell your friends, “when you’re trying to find our house, just look for the natural gas plume coming from our chimney.”

  11. Looks like the Ellsworth family is going to be the first to own a viable water-powered automobile, something that’s been dreamed about for years.


  12. It’s not a gas leak – the well was drilled too deep. On the plus side, now they can say they’re the only people who brush their teeth with brimstone.

  13. Check out Muktinath, a Hindu/Buddhist pilgrimage site near Jomsom, Nepal – a co-located spring with natural gas site.
    I say add 107 more faucets, and turn it into a temple!

  14. #6 Bugs

    natural gas straight from the ground should have no odor. Odor is added for safety.

    I guess they are a non smoking household.

  15. Can someone explain why the energy companies are responsible for this? Would the natural gas not seep into their well if the site were not active?

  16. i dunno if anyone answered this question, but how did they realize there is gas in their water? where I live this phenomenon is totally unknown, so I have no solutions to my own question..thanks!

  17. @#29: Read the article. The water pressure was extremely high. They had it tested (they don’t describe what tests were done, but I imagine whoever they brought in tested the water contents), which concluded there were high levels of methane in the water.

  18. This is quite the interesting case. One might be quick to blame the natural gas companies, but then again, they have a natural water well in an area that is rich in underground methane — that’s probably not a good idea to begin with, independent of the companies mining it nearby.

    On the one hand, they have good reason to be concerned, since methane isn’t good to be ingesting, plus it will evaporate from the water and leave high levels of methane in their home, which is very dangerous.

    On the other hand, this could be a blessing in disguise. Consider it a sound investement to buy a water treatment system that can separate the methane and use it at will. They could potentially replace all of their energy needs with that much natural methane.

  19. Would the natural gas not seep into their well if the site were not active?

    As a former driller, I’ll have a go. Basically the most likely scenrio is that a deeper gas well may have drilled through confgining layers, which has released pressurized gas (or gassy water) from a deeper layer(~>1000 feet) up as far as the aquifer (100-500 feet) layer from which these people draw their drinking water.

    It’s not homogeneous down there. Layers upon layers. Poke a hole between the layers and mass moves according to pressure and gravity.

  20. Good luck getting mining and energy companies to admit to any impact on local communities or ecosystems.
    No matter what kind of mess they create they will always say “We provide the energy people need and create thousands of jobs, which puts money into the economy, blah blah”
    Almost every rural area I’ve seen in America has been polluted by upstream energy or mineral extraction.

  21. This is great! Now you only have to run one set of pipes in your house and don’t need a dedicated water heater. Just install a piezo ignitor from a BBQ grill on your faucet and you’ll have truly instant hot water at the push of a button.

    They could also have the best 4th of July display ever; just turn on the sprinklers and throw a match on the lawn (makes melting snow off the driveway in winter really easy, too).

  22. dear revenge. thx for the summary. i didn’t have time to read the article, and i hope these few lines didn’t cause you any trouble to write. cos they helped me and saved me a lot of time

  23. IANAL- but depending on the authority having jurisdiction? The gas into a water well issue may be actionable. In either direction. Law can be not lay person’s viewpoint logical in many cases. The technical issues are rather interesting. As in the amount of recoverable gas Vs cost factors to begin with. Recovery Vs mere separation also becomes a break point in applying logic. A plausibly literal “STEAMpunk” handling might be a flame heated distiller using the gas as heat source…

  24. @18 Medicine Hat, Alberta has been described (by Rudyard Kipling no less) as having “All Hell for a Basement”. This refers to the fact that Medicine Hat is built on a huge gas field.

  25. I remember lighting the taps on fire when I was a kid back in Ontario, near the south end of lake Huron. It was a common occurrence in the area as the natural gas table sat on top of the water table so depending on the levels you often got a mix of water and gas. We didn’t have anywhere near this amount of gas though. There was even enough that one of our neighbours drilled a well and was able to heat his house.

  26. So let me see if I have thei right, we live on a great big ball called Earth, inside this ball are layers and layers, some of which are water, some of which are gas (we call this stuff “Natural Gas” for a reason).

    Now, this family has a hole they poked into this big ball we live on, and they were able to get water out of this hole. Then, at a later point in time, some natural gas started leaking through various layers and escaped out the hole that their water comes through.

    Why must this be the fault of the gas company?

    It might be the fault of the gas company, but it could also be, you know, a naturally occuring phenomenon… Couldn’t it?

    I appreciated REVENG (#31) and MDH‘s (#32) insights – they seems very plausable to me…

  27. Gas wells can (and do) generate up to a MILLION dollars a day (at least down here in SW CO). The companies piss money away on false overtime, and just about everything else you can imagine..besides combating the effect on the environment and the people that live near the wells. They were probably relieved that all they had to do was put a filtration system in that house to shut them up. They are making the $$ as fast as possible and will split as soon as it’s all gone. Mining 101.

    Take a look at what coal mining has done to the towns in SE US, and what strip mining IS doing right now.


    This is getting WAY too common…. the contamination and the corporate response (not the mention the COGCC’s sad involvment).

    EPA – hands tied. Toothless and unable to help.

    This is only the tip of the iceberg folks. If you want to see what’s really going on behind this stuff and how endangered your own water supply may be, visit the communities that have now become members of the “Consortium of the Frac’d”

    You can see why this is happening at http://www.journeyoftheforsaken.com/fracpage.htm

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