BLM gives EnCana permission to drill past winter deadline |

BLM gives EnCana permission to drill past winter deadline

EnCana has passed a Dec. 1 deadline that calls for ceasing drilling operations to protect wintering elk. The Bureau of Land Management, which set the stipulation, has granted the company an extension.

EnCana sent a letter to Grass Mesa homeowners Wednesday explaining the situation.

During completion operations on one of its wells, HMU 4-13, on Grass Mesa south of Rifle, a piece of tubing broke apart and stuck in the hole.

“Under the circumstances, EnCana has requested permission from the BLM to continue operations beyond the normal December 1 winter stipulation deadline,” said the letter, written by EnCana operations field leader David Grisso to the Grass Mesa homeowners.

Grisso said the work would take from two to three weeks to complete.

Although EnCana drills on private land, its roads cross BLM so it must abide by the Dec. 1 stipulation.

At a Garfield County Energy Advisory Board meeting Thursday evening, EnCana landowner relations coordinator Sher Long said the company had received approval from BLM to repair the damage to the well bore.

“It’s always our intent to have our work completed by Dec. 1,” she said.

“The problem is if we make them get out right now without correcting the problem there could be a potential to damage the (gas) reservoir,” said BLM assistant field manager Steve Bennett. “It would mess up their ability to produce (gas) out of that zone. … We have to balance the subsurface resource against the wildlife protection we’re trying to achieve, which is the impact on the elk.”

Continued work on the well will probably not impact any elk in the area.

“It’s probably not going be that significant with just one well on the site. They don’t have an actual drill rig, but a smaller (completion) rig, and there’s not as much truck traffic,” Bennett added.

BLM usually lifts the winter restriction in April, but if there is a mild winter it may consider lifting it in March, Bennett said.

Bret Closs, of Grass Mesa, is not pleased with the decision.

“It sets a precedent by letting them do this again,” he said. “The same thing happened two years ago. They’re starting to set a precedent so they’re gonna believe every time they have a little issue the BLM will let them go ahead at the landowners’ expense and wildlife’s expense.”

EnCana would have finished the well Nov. 24 if the tubing problem had not occurred, said EnCana spokesman Doug Hock. The problem occurred as the company was drilling out plugs in the gas producing zones along the length of the well pipe. The plugs are inserted during the fracturing process which expands the gas zones to allow the gas to flow.

“With the gas zones we’ve drilled out we will go ahead and flow, the others will be left in (until the spring),” Hock said. “(BLM) gave us permission simply to do the maintenance work necessary get the pipe out of the hole. We’re not allowed to do any further completion work. We had not completed drilling out the plugs. In spring we will have to come back and finish so we have all those (zones producing gas).”

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