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Regulatory and Permitting Information Desktop Toolkit

Colorado Drilling and Well Development (5-CO-a)

This flowchart illustrates the permitting process for drilling and developing geothermal wells in Colorado.

According to the Office of the State Engineer's Rules and Regulations for Permitting the Development and Appropriation of Geothermal Resources Through the Use of Wells, “Geothermal Well” means a well that is constructed for the purpose of exploration, use of a geothermal resource, or reinjection of a geothermal fluid.

All geothermal resources of the State of Colorado are administered by the State Engineer. (Rules and Regulations, Rule 3.1).

A permit issued by the State Engineer must be obtained prior to construction or use of any geothermal well. A copy of the approved permit will be sent to the applicant. A copy of the permit must be available and posted at the well or construction site at all times when constructing or performing any work on a well. All work must comply with the conditions of approval of the valid permit and all work shall be completed prior to the expiration of the permit. (Geothermal Rules and Regulations, Rule 6.1).

A permit is also required for increasing the production from, expanding the use of, changing the producing interval of, or changing the type of use from an existing geothermal well (e.g. from exploration to reinjection).(Geothermal Rules and Regulations, Rule 6.1.2.5).


Drilling and Well Development Process

5-CO-a.1 - Has the Developer Completed an Environmental Process for Drilling?

If the developer has not yet completed an environmental review process for drilling activities, the developer must do so before proceeding.


5-CO-a.2 - Environmental Review Process

The developer must make make sure to undergo an environmental process before drilling. For example, on BLM land, the BLM will not issue a drilling permit until the developer can show he or she has complied with NEPA. For similar ground-disturbing activities on state land or private land, the developer must comply with any state or local environmental regulations.

Environmental Overview: 9


5-CO-a.3 - Has the Developer Secured any Necessary Water Rights?

Pursuant to Section 37-90.5-107, C.R.S. (2003), the appropriation of geothermal fluids to recover geothermal resources is recognized as a beneficial use of ground water. However, the permit to appropriate requirement may be waived by the state engineer for a diversionary utilization method which is nonconsumptive and which will not impair valid, prior water rights.

(Geothermal Rules and Regulations, Rule 3.4)


5-CO-a.4 - Water Access/Rights Process

Water Access and Water Rights Overview:
19-CO-a


5-CO-a.5 - Notice of Proposed Well Construction to Owners/Operators of Prior Water/Geothermal Rights

Prior to submitting an application, the applicant must give notice of the proposed well construction to the owners or operators of any valid, prior water or geothermal rights that are located within one half (½) mile of the proposed well. The notice must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, and shall include a copy of the permit application. The notice must instruct the owners or operators that they must submit a written objection to the State Engineer within forty-five (45) days of their receipt of the notice if they are opposed to the proposed well construction. The application must specify if the well is to be used to explore or appropriate a geothermal resource, and if so, specify the proposed production rate and disposal of the geothermal fluid. Any secondary uses of the geothermal fluid or recovery of by-products shall be identified in the application. The application must be supplemented with evidence showing that notice was given as provided above, and that the appropriation meets the provisions of Section 37-90.5-107 (3) or (4), C.R.S. (2003).

a. if the geothermal fluid appropriated is from a nontributary source as defined in section 37-90-103 (10.5), C.R.S. (2003), the appropriation must comply with the Statewide Nontributary Ground Water Rules, 2 CCR 402-7 (1986);
b. if the well is located in the Denver Basin, the appropriation must comply with the Denver Basin Rules, 2 CCR 402-6 (1985);
c. if the well is located in a Designated Ground Water Basin, the appropriation must comply with the Ground Water Commission Rules, 2 CCR 410-1 (1992).

(Rule 6.2.3.3)


Designated Ground Water Basins are areas in the eastern plains with very little surface water where users rely primarily on ground water as their source of water supply. (Colorado Ground Water Commission Website).


5-CO-a.6 - General Purpose Water Well Permit Application Form (Form GWS-45); Possible Supplemental Information; Fee

Type A Well

A permit application must be submitted prior to the construction or use of each Type A Open System well.

The application must specify the depth and anticipated temperatures of the geothermal fluids.

When the subsurface geologic or hydrologic conditions are not known to the State Engineer, the applicant may be required to supplement the application with geophysical, geological and hydrological information of the subject area.

All well testing and well construction operations must be suspended and the State Engineer must be notified immediately when geothermal fluid temperature greater than two hundred and twelve (212) degrees Fahrenheit is encountered during the construction of a Type A geothermal well. No further construction will be allowed unless a permit for a Type B geothermal well has been applied for and approved by the State Engineer. The well must comply with the construction standards for Type B wells.

(Rule 6.2.2)

General Purpose Water Well Permit Application


Type B Well

A permit application must be submitted prior to the construction or use of each Type B well, and the State Engineer will give notice to appropriate government agencies (see 5-CO-a.8).

The application for a Type B well must specify the depth and anticipated temperature of the geothermal fluid.

When the subsurface geologic or hydrologic conditions are not known to the State Engineer, the applicant may be required to supplement the application with geophysical, geological and hydrological information of the subject area.

(Rule 6.2.3)

General Purpose Water Well Permit Application


For information on fees, refer to the table located in Rule 6.3.


5-CO-a.7 - Will the Well Depth Exceed 2500 ft or Encounter Geothermal Fluids over 212 Degrees F?

A "Type A Geothermal Well” means any geothermal well that has a total depth not exceeding two thousand five hundred (2,500) feet or that encounters geothermal fluids having a temperature not exceeding two hundred and twelve (212) degrees Fahrenheit. (Rule 4.2.28.1).

A “Type B Geothermal Well” means any geothermal well that has a total depth greater than two thousand five hundred (2,500) feet or that expects to encounter geothermal fluids having a temperature greater than two hundred and twelve (212) degrees Fahrenheit. (Rule 4.2.28.1).


5-CO-a.8 - Notice to CGWC if Well Located in Designated Ground Water Basin and Other Appropriate Government Agencies if it is a Reinjection Well

Notice of any application, permit, order, or other action received or issued by the State Engineer may be given to any other government agency which may have information, comments, or jurisdiction over the well or activity involved. The State Engineer may enter into a memorandum of understanding with other agencies to eliminate duplication of applications or other efforts. At a minimum, copies of an application will be provided by the State Engineer to the Colorado Water Commission for geothermal wells located in Designated Ground Water Basins.

(Rule 6.6)

Designated Ground Water Basins are areas in the eastern plains with very little surface water where users rely primarily on ground water as their source of water supply. (Colorado Ground Water Commission Website).


5-CO-a.9 - Notice to COGCC and Any Other Appropriate Government Agencies and to CGWC if in Designated Basin

Notice of any application, permit, order, or other action received or issued by the State Engineer may be given to any other government agency which may have information, comments, or jurisdiction over the well or activity involved. The State Engineer may enter into a memorandum of understanding with other agencies to eliminate duplication of applications or other efforts. At a minimum, copies of an application will be provided by the State Engineer to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and to the Colorado Water Commission for geothermal wells located in Designated Ground Water Basins.

(Rule 6.6)


5-CO-a.9 - Notice of Proposed Well Construction to Owners/Operators of Prior Water/Geothermal Rights

Prior to submitting an application, the applicant must give notice of the proposed well construction to the owners or operators of any valid, prior water or geothermal rights that are located within one half (½) mile of the proposed well. The notice must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, and shall include a copy of the permit application. The notice must instruct the owners or operators that they must submit a written objection to the State Engineer within forty-five (45) days of their receipt of the notice if they are opposed to the proposed well construction. The application must specify whether the well will be used to explore or appropriate a geothermal resource, and if so, specify the proposed production rate and disposal of a geothermal fluid. Any secondary uses of a geothermal fluid or recovery of by-products must be identified in the application. The application must be supplemented with evidence showing that notice was given as provided above, and that the appropriation meets the provisions of Section 37-90.5-107 (3) or (4), C.R.S. (2003), and:

a. if the geothermal fluid appropriated is from a nontributary source as defined in section 37-90-103(10.5), C.R.S. (2003), the appropriation must comply with the Statewide Nontributary Ground Water Rules, 2 CCR 402-7 (1986);
b. if the well is located in the Denver Basin, the appropriation must comply with the Denver Basin Rules, 2 CCR 402-6 (1985);
c. if the well is located in a Designated Ground Water Basin, the appropriation must comply with the Ground Water Commission Rules, 2 CCR 410-1 (1992).

(Rule 6.2.3.4)


5-CO-a.10 - Is the Geology of the Area Unknown?

According to DWR staff, if the geology of the area is unknown, the developer must have a scientific study done and include it with the application materials.


5-CO-a.11 - Scientific Report

Contact DWR for details required in the Scientific Report.


5-CO-a.12 - Review Application Materials

DWR will review the application materials.


5-CO-a.13 - Well Permit

If a permit application meets the requirements of Section 37-90.5-106, C.R.S. (2003) and the provisions of the Rules, the State Engineer shall issue the permit, subject to terms and conditions.


Denial

If the permit is denied the State Engineer will state the reasons for the denial in writing. The permit application and the denial will be filed and preserved by the State Engineer. A copy of the denial will be sent to the applicant. (Rule 6.8).


Hearing and Appeal

Any person aggrieved by a decision of the State Engineer may, within sixty (60) days, petition for a hearing in accordance with the State Engineer's Procedural Regulations, 2 CCR 402-5 (1984). In an adjudicatory matter concerning a geothermal well, the final action of the State Engineer will be subject to judicial review by the court having authority over the area in which the well is located.

(Rule 6.9)


5-CO-a.14 - Follow Permit Conditions and Well Specifications

Well Location

When selecting a site for a geothermal well, the well owner or operator must consider the topography, surface drainage, access for maintenance and repair, and proximity of the well site to sources of contamination, such as leach fields, sewer lines and land fills. The well owner or operator must comply with federal, state and local regulations concerning setbacks from structures and property lines if more stringent than the Rules.

Any well constructed on the well owner’s property and within two hundred (200) feet of the permitted location shall be deemed to be at the approved location provided it meets the well spacing requirements of the Rules and permit conditions.

Geothermal wells must not be located closer than one hundred (100) feet to the nearest source or potential source of contamination unless a variance has been obtained from the State Engineer. For purposes of this Rule, the appropriation and reinjection of a geothermal fluid into the same reservoir will not be considered as a source of contamination.

A Type A-OS, Type B or reinjection well with a proposed production or injection rate greater than fifteen (15) gpm must be located more than six hundred (600) feet from:

a. any existing or permitted geothermal well not owned by the applicant, and completed in the same reservoir; or,
b. any existing or permitted water well not owned by the applicant, and completed in the same reservoir; or,
c. any decreed, naturally flowing spring not owned by the applicant, unless the applicant can demonstrate that the source of the spring is not hydraulically connected to the geothermal reservoir.

(See Rule 6.4)


The Permit

The permit will also set forth such conditions for construction, equipping and operating a geothermal well as are reasonable to prevent waste of the resource, contamination of the aquifers, or material injury to any valid, prior water or geothermal rights. (Rule 6.2.5). For minimum construction standards for Type A Geothermal Wells, see Rule 8. For minimum construction standards for Type B Geothermal Wells, see Rule 9.

A permit to construct a well shall expire one (1) year after being issued unless the constructor submits a Well Construction and Test Report. A permit to use an existing well shall not have an expiration date. A permit may be extended, if, prior to such expiration, a request to extend the permit is received by the State Engineer. A written extension request shall be submitted by the owner or operator, and shall provide reasons for not completing the well construction, an estimate of time necessary to complete construction of the well and a filing fee. (Rule 6.7).

5-CO-a.10 - General Purpose Water Well Permit Application Form (Form GWS-45); Possible Supplemental Information; Fee

A permit application must be submitted prior to the construction or use of each Type A Open System well.

The application must specify the depth and anticipated temperatures of the geothermal fluids.

When the subsurface geologic or hydrologic conditions are not known to the State Engineer, the applicant may be required to supplement the application with geophysical, geological and hydrological information of the subject area.

All well testing and well construction operations must be suspended and the State Engineer must be notified immediately when geothermal fluid temperature greater than two hundred and twelve (212) degrees Fahrenheit is encountered during the construction of a Type A geothermal well. No further construction will be allowed unless a permit for a Type B geothermal well has been applied for and approved by the State Engineer. The well must comply with the construction standards for Type B wells.

(Rule 6.2.2)

General Purpose Water Well Permit Application


For information on fees, refer to the table located in Rule 6.3.




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