GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - Antero Resources, a natural gas drilling company based in Denver, announced on Monday that it is selling off its Piceance Basin assets to an undisclosed corporate buyer, for a reported price tag of $325 million in cash and other considerations.
The sale is formally to close in December, but is to be effective as of Oct. 1, 2012, according to the announcement.
Antero has been operating in the Piceance Basin since 2005, according to Al Schopp, vice president of the company, and is producing some 59 million cubic feet equivalent per day from 284 wells, according to a statement issued by the company.
Antero currently has no drilling rigs active in the Piceance Basin, Schopp said, and will now shift its full attention to drilling in the shale gas reserves in Pennsylvania and New York.
Schopp said Antero has only four regular employees in Garfield County, although the company also has "a significant number of independent contractors" who worked rigs and production facilities.
Local critics of Antero and its gas drilling plans, most vociferously in the Silt Mesa and Battlement Mesa unincorporated areas, reacted to the news with cautious optimism.
"It's not entirely unexpected," said Dave Devanney of the Battlement Concerned Citizens group. "A lot of us had the idea that Antero was not in this for the long haul."
He said it is a relatively small company, compared to others in the industry, and had run into problems with its development plans.
Antero announced in 2009 it planned to drill up to 200 wells from nine well-pads in Battlement Mesa.
Fiona Lloyd of the RSPN (Rifle/Silt/Peach Valley/New Castle) citizen's organization said she won't be sorry to see the company leave. Antero drilled a few exploratory wells on Silt Mesa in 2010, raising controversy with residents.
"At least Antero did engage in dialogue with us," Lloyd said, referring to a series of meetings between RSPN and the company over Antero's drilling plans.
"I'm cautiously optimistic that the new owners will be more open and accountable than Antero," she added.
The company has been sued by some residents of different parts of the county unhappy with the impacts of Antero's activities or plans.
One man, Bob Regulski, sued the company over a bungled pipeline across his land south of Silt. Regulski's suit was aided by the fact that Garfield County red-tagged the pipeline due to shoddy workmanship. He ultimately reached an undisclosed, out-of-court settlement for damages.
The company also encountered high levels of toxic hydrogen sulfide gas at some of its well pads, triggering concerns among neighbors and others.
"All we can do is hope that [the buyer] is an operator that has a better plan, that will take the residents' concerns into consideration," said Devanney, who lives in Battlement Mesa.
As part of the sale, according to a company-authorized statement that appeared in several publications, the buyer will assume all of Antero's Rocky Mountain pipeline transmission obligations.
The assets consist of 61,000 acres of leases, and 30 miles of gathering pipelines in the Piceance Basin region, the article stated.
Schopp said it is up to the buyer to make its own announcement about the deal, as well as to decide whether to take over Antero's offices and hire the contractors who have been working the rigs.