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Mobile Air Pollution Technology Detects Benzene Emissions from Weld Oil and Gas Facility

An oil pump jack is pictured in the middle of a traffic circle at a new residential development in Weld County, Colo. on June 24, 2020. (Andy Bosselman for Newsline)

by Zoe Schacht, Colorado Newsline
July 8, 2022

State air pollution regulators recently used mobile technology to detect high emissions of benzene, a toxic substance known to cause cancer, at a facility in Weld County. The detection led to Cub Creek Energy, operator of the oil and gas facility, being issued a compliance advisory on June 3, the first step in formal enforcement action.

The Colorado Air Monitoring Mobile Lab continuously measures emissions through a trailer and aids the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in deciding when inspectors should return to locations for follow-ups.

CAMML has collected facility emission data across the state since 2017. The technology enables CDPHE to closely monitor emissions across the state and address violations when necessary.

In Colorado, there is only one trailer, which costs $500,000 to build and requires an additional $30,000 to $40,000 a year to operate. Currently, the trailer remains at Cub Creek Energy’s Knight Pad in Weld County to continue monitoring the facility.

“Our dedicated public servants work hard to limit air pollution. We do everything in our power to hold polluters accountable,” Michael Ogletree, director of CPDHE’s Air Pollution Control Division, said in a statement. “Our new technology allows us to increase our presence in communities and act faster than ever before to slash pollution where it begins.”

Cub Creek Energy’s Knight Pad in Weld County was found to be emitting benzene at high levels. According to a statement from CDPHE, state toxicologists do not expect the levels to impose any health effects. But, nearby residents experiencing headaches, dizziness, breathing problems, an increased heart rate or skin or eye irritation should speak with a health care professional.

CAMML technology can measure particulate matter like methane and oxides of nitrogen and can also detect more than 50 volatile organic compounds, such as benzene. CDPHE also uses the Mobile Oil/gas Optical Sensor of Emissions to detect air pollution. However, the mobile tool can collect data while moving, unlike CAMML.

After this year’s state legislative session, which approved investments in CDPHE’s Air Pollution Control Division, the agency intends to implement more mobile technology like the MOOSE and set up more fixed monitoring sites across the state.

Zoe Schacht is a former reporter for Colorado Newsline, where this story first appeared.