County close to eclipsing last year’s drill permit record
RIFLE – Natural gas drilling permits for Garfield County so far this year already are about to eclipse the record total that was reached for all of last year.Around 1,800 permits have been issued by the state for Garfield County, said Brian Macke, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.The county’s total could reach about 2,350 or so by year’s end, Macke said at Thursday’s Northwest Colorado Oil & Gas Forum in Rifle. Last year 1,845 permits were issued in the county.Drilling in Garfield County also increasingly is driving what is expected to be another record year for permits issued statewide. The county is responsible for about 37 percent of this year’s total so far, up from about a third of all drilling permits in recent years. By the end of the year a total of about 6,100 permits are expected to be issued in Colorado, compared to 5,904 for all of last year.About half of the 120-125 rigs that are drilling statewide are operating in Garfield County. The county has 4,133 producing wells, and the state may hit 33,700 by year’s end.Drilling permit figures might be even higher if not for a backlog of about 1,300 applications that are being processed, Macke said. The state has hired new permitting staff to try to reduce the backlog.Also, in northwest Colorado the COGCC has increased staffing from two people a few years ago to six today, and they are preparing to move into a new office in Rifle by the end of the year.Area staff have taken 53 complaints so far this year, with the most common issue involving odors. Others have pertained to matters such as water well impacts, noise, dust and traffic. In most cases, COGCC staff have been able to bring about a resolution to the problems.Macke said impacts have been reduced by the industry’s increased practice of directional drilling of multiple wells from single well pads. Ninety-eight percent of Garfield County wells are drilled directionally now.Statewide, only about 5 percent of wells were drilled directionally in 2000, compared to 54 percent now.”I believe that the industry obviously has found ways to make it work economically,” Macke said.Even with a recent drop in natural gas prices, the value of Garfield County’s annual production is now about $2.25 billion a year, with the statewide production expected to top $11 billion. The county is producing about a billion cubic feet of gas per day, Macke said.Leading the way in drilling and gas production locally is Williams Production. It has about 25 rigs operating and 1,900 wells producing in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, with most of its operations concentrated in Garfield County. It just reached 700 million cubic feet per day of production, which is enough to provide energy to 2.5 million homes on a daily basis, said Williams district manager Steve Soychak.Williams hopes to end up drilling about 500 wells in the two counties this year.EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) expects to drill about 300 wells this year in the region, up from 207 last year. It has nearly 2,400 wells producing gas from 335 pads in the Piceance Basin, the local geological formation being targeted by gas producers.As another measure of local activity, Bill Barrett Corp. is planning to spend $205 million this year to pursue drilling across the 19,000 acres on which it is operating south of Silt. That’s about 45 percent of the company’s overall budget, said Jim Felton, a company spokesman.Garfield County drilling permit figures include permits issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The BLM’s Glenwood Springs Energy Office has approved 368 permits to drill so far for its 2007 fiscal year, which ends this month, spokesman David Boyd said.That figure includes 24 wells to be drilled on U.S. Forest Service land.Contact Dennis Webb: email@example.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
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