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Barrett back to drill

Dennis Webb

Bill Barrett is back – and in a big way.The 75-year-old Denver natural gas man is returning to Garfield County with plans for his new company to drill 80 new wells in 2005, which would make it the county’s third most active energy developer.Bill Barrett Corp.’s plans to drill, and profit from it, in Garfield County and across much of the West got a big boost Friday. The company made an initial public stock offering that was first expected to generate about $300 million. But that was at the initial price of $25 per share for the 13 million shares of common stock first offered. By the close of the day Friday, the stock closed at $29.05 on the New York Stock Exchange.The company’s stock is benefiting in part from strong gas prices, which are also serving as an incentive for it to re-enter the Garfield County market.Barrett Resources Corp., Barrett’s previous company, helped to kick off the current natural gas drilling boom in Garfield County. In 2001 Williams Companies purchased that company, and Williams Production is now a leading natural gas driller and producer in the county, along with EnCana Oil & Gas. Each plans to drill hundreds of wells in the county next year.After the 2001 sale, Barrett started up his new company the following year, hiring some of his former employees. This summer, it purchased gas leases and some 70 wells from Calpine as Barrett made his re-entry into Garfield County.The company recently met with residents south of Silt to discuss its plans for drilling there next year. The company plans to have four rigs operating by next summer and to drill 80 to 100 wells per year over the next two to three years, with up to eight wells directionally drilled per pad.Barrett hopes to drill from one pad per 80 acres, although it will use one pad per 40 acres in some places, said Duane Zavadil, manager of regulatory and governmental affairs for the company.The plans are based on obtaining approval from the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission for underground well densities as great as one per 10 acres in some places. A Barrett representative plans to discuss its density request with Garfield County commissioners at their meeting in Glenwood Springs Monday morning.The density request may ring a bell for some county residents. Barrett’s prior company was the one that first pursued the kinds of well densities that have since become so common locally as energy producers have tried to maximize gas production in the county. Barrett, and other energy developers since, have come to find that densities as great as one well per 10 acres are necessary to do that.But Zavadil said things are different from the days when Barrett Resources operated locally. Back then, he said, Barrett first was drilling one well per 320 acres. Eventually it obtained approval to drill as densely as one well per 20 acres. But that also was the well pad density, which is why it raised some concerns from county residents.These days, Zavadil said, directional drilling is so much more advanced that 10-acre well spacing underground can be achieved with far less dense spacing of well pads on the surface.Zavadil looks back with pride at Barrett Resources’ early efforts to develop the county’s gas resource. The company built a pipeline, made use of new technologies and rode out a period where gas prices were much lower than they are today.”Bill just had the insight to see that the resources were there and stick with it and make it work,” he said.But while Barrett may have built a solid reputation in the industry, his company faces the challenge of winning the trust of residents upon its return to Garfield County.Zavadil said he believes Barrett is working pretty well with residents, “and the residents are treating us fairly but cautiously.””We’re excited to be there and we’re going to put a lot of effort into doing what we can to mitigate surface owner issues in the area.”Darcy Campbell, who grew up south of Silt and lives on Dry Hollow Road now, has concerns about Barrett’s plans but also is trying to keep an open mind.She has experience working with EnCana and Calpine, but knows little about Barrett.”All we can do is wait and see how they address our concerns,” Campbell said.Campbell said her biggest concerns involve constant noise and traffic.”The traffic’s horrendous; it’s horrible. We live in the country to get away from that and now it’s just constant traffic,” she said.Zavadil said he hopes that Barrett can learn from the experiences of EnCana and avoid some of the problems that company has encountered. One was a natural gas seep into West Divide Creek south of Silt from an EnCana well this year. The state fined EnCana a record $371,200 for that seep.The state has imposed a drilling moratorium in a two-mile radius around the seep. Zavadil said Barrett has probably about a square mile of gas rights in that area that are affected by the moratorium. But he said Barrett is fine with that moratorium, and would like to see the results of a planned hydrogeological study in the seep area before it proceeds with drilling there.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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