|Map of Colorado showing active fires (red and yellow patches) detected by satellite sensors on June 27, 2012. Source: US Forest Service - Active Fire Mapping Program.|
Zooming in on the Pine Ridge fire (below), we've plotted active oil and gas wells as blue dots. This is old data we collected way back in April 2008, so there are probably additional wells in the area now that we're not showing. Look closely at the imagery in Google Earth or Google Maps and I'll bet you can see a few. The red and orange squares indicate active fire detections from MODIS since 7:45am MDT yesterday. That means fire was burning somewhere within each square, but not necessarily covering the whole colored area.
We don't know what happens if a wildfire burns in close proximity to natural gas wells and pipelines (got any stories you can share with our readers?). Vegetation should be regularly cleared away from those facilities so they're not endangered. The web of access roads might even make it easier for fire crews to get to the scene. But the presence of wellheads, pipelines, compressor stations and processing facilities that demonstrably leak explosive and flammable natural gas might add some risk to the fire-fighting effort.
As drilling spreads across Western lands, the intersection of wildfire and gas infrastructure will become increasingly common. Let's tighten up that leaky infrastructure to save energy and money, cut pollution, and -- quite possibly -- save lives and property.
|Closeup of Pine Ridge fire about 15 miles northeast of Grand Junction, Colorado. Colored squares indicate active fire detected within past 24 hours (June 27, 2012). Blue spots are locations of active oil and gas wells as of April 2008.|