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November 12, 2012
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Ursa Resources buying Antero's Piceance assets

GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Texas-based Ursa Resources Group II, the company expected to buy Antero Resources' operations in the Piceance Basin, probably will be "more proactive" and drill "more aggressively" than Antero did, according to a company spokesman.

Don Simpson, certified professional landman for Ursa Resources, will introduce the company and himself to the Garfield County commissioners at the board's regular meeting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.

In a telephone interview on Friday, Simpson offered preliminary information about the $325 million sale, which is set to close in December.

Antero, based in Denver, announced on Nov. 5 that it was selling its assets in the Piceance Basin, but the announcement did not disclose the identity of the buyer.

Simpson contacted the Glenwood Springs Post Independent with an offer to talk about the company and its plans for its newly acquired Piceance Basin assets.

The Piceance Basin region encompasses large portions of western Colorado, eastern Utah and southern Wyoming, including most of western Garfield County.

Antero has been operating in this region since 2005, according to Al Schopp, vice president of the company. It is producing some 59 million cubic feet equivalent per day from 284 wells, according to a statement issued by the company.

Simpson stressed that the company is now conducting due diligence investigations in Antero's operations, legal entanglements, facilities and other possessions. He said nothing is expected to hinder the sale.

"It looks like everything has been taken care of," he said.

He said the purchase brings with it more than 1,000 gas leases in the area, including some in the controversial Thompson Divide region and other local areas.

According to Simpson, Ursa already has a good idea of Antero's position, both in the industry and the communities near its gas leases.

That includes the controversies surrounding Antero's plans to drill in Battlement Mesa, on Silt Mesa and in Thompson Divide, west of Carbondale.

In all those cases, Antero's drilling plans generated opposition from residents, mostly due to concerns that living near the drilling rigs posed serious health hazards or unwarranted destruction of wildlife habitat and recreational resources.

"We're aware of some of the concerns," Simpson said, "and we certainly would want to hear any other concerns that people might have."

He predicted that Ursa is "probably going to be a little more proactive" than Antero was in dealing with local residents.

"We do value health, safety and the environment," he said.

At the same time, Simpson continued, "We do plan to develop probably more aggressively than Antero."

Much of the Piceance Basin drilling activity has dropped off in the past three years, largely due to a slump in prices for natural gas.

Gas prices were up slightly on Friday at roughly $3.51 per million British thermal units (MMBtu), according to the Energy Information Administration website (eia.gov/naturalgas/weekly), but nowhere near the $14 per MMBtu price set in 2008, at the height of the drilling boom.

'We can drill at today's gas prices," Simpson said, thanks to cost-cutting measures.

Ursa does not own the rigs used to drill its wells, but contracts that work out to drilling companies, he said.

"We'll hopefully be utilizing some of the people who are there," he noted.

Simpson said Ursa will take over Antero's office in Rifle, set up a main office in Denver, and said the company hopes to hire "people that are familiar with the Piceance."

"Not a lot is going to change, initially," he predicted.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Nov 12, 2012 05:49AM Published Nov 12, 2012 05:47AM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.