Gas drilling increasing in rural areas of West Slope

By By BOBBY MAGILL
The Daily Sentinel

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

//www.gjsentinel.com/news/content/news/stories/2006/10/03/10_3_1a_Gas_Well_Projections.html

Thousands of new natural-gas wells are expected to be drilled in the Piceance Basin next year, while energy companies could begin to turn their sights to one of the Western Slope’s least explored energy reserves.

The Paradox Basin of western Montrose County could be next in line for expanded oil and gas development, said Brian Macke, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

“The Paradox Basin is probably one of the most under-explored and under-developed parts of the state for oil and gas,” Macke said Monday.

There will likely be an “elevated level of interest” among energy companies in developing there, he said.

Most of the Western Slope’s energy development over the next year will be in the Piceance Basin, where thousands of gas wells now exist.

As long as gas prices remain high — currently about $5 per million British thermal units — the commission expects at least 2,000 new natural gas wells to be drilled in northwestern Colorado annually.

Macke said he can’t predict how many wells will be drilled in the next decade, however.

This year, natural gas drilling in Mesa County is expected to surpass that of 2005, Macke said. The commission has issued 205 natural gas permits to drill so far in 2006, with 275 expected. Last year, 136 permits were issued.

In Garfield County, the focal point of energy development on the Western Slope, the commission has issued 1,355 permits to drill so far this year, with 1,600 expected. Last year, 1,509 permits were issued.

Drilling in Rio Blanco County is expected to double this year over 2005, Macke said. About 400 permits to drill are expected to be issued this year for the county, where only 161 permits were issued in 2005.

So far, 280 permits have been written for Rio Blanco County.

Over the last two years, energy companies have shown little interest in developing areas of the Western Slope south of Mesa County.

The commission issued no permits to drill in Montrose County in 2005 and only one so far this year. Forty-seven permits to drill were issued for San Miguel County in 2005, and 29 so far in 2006.

But more than 24,500 acres in both counties are up for lease in the Bureau of Land Management’s Nov. 9 oil and gas lease sale.

Most of the parcels on the auction block in Montrose County, totaling more than 12,400 acres, are along Colorado Highway 141 north of Naturita.

The San Miguel County parcels in the lease sale, totaling 12,227 acres, are along Highway 141 north of Egnar.

Bobby Magill can be reached via e-mail at bmagill(at)gjds.com


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