County gas drilling may flatten after hitting 20-year high |

County gas drilling may flatten after hitting 20-year high

After hitting a 20-year high in 2001, natural gas drilling in Garfield County is expected to level off this year.”Last year was a banner year,” said Brian Macke at the quarterly meeting of the Northwest Oil and Gas Forum in Rifle on Thursday.Macke, the deputy director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said it’s too early in the year to forecast drilling activity for 2002, but indicated it should be down a little in Garfield County, and statewide.”They are forecasting 1,900 (new well permits) for the state, and I was kind of surprised it was that high,” Macke said.The increase in drilling activity last year was brought on by higher natural gas prices, which peaked in December 2000 and dropped substantially since then, Macke said.The state issued 353 drilling permits in 2001 for Garfield County, compared to 213 in 2000, and 130 in 1999, according to graphs issued by Macke.The northwest part of Colorado, which the oil and gas commission considers as Garfield, Mesa, Moffat, Rio Blanco, Routt, Pitkin, Delta and Gunnison counties, is second only to the northeast part of the state in drilling activity and production.”The Piceance Basin is up and coming,” Macke told the gathering of oil and gas industry workers, landowners and members of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance. “The Piceance continues to be a strategically important gas province in the U.S.”Steve Bennett, a field manager for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, said the biggest proposed project on public land in Garfield County this year comes from Williams Production, formerly Barrett Resources.The project, which covers an area from Anvil Points to Parachute, calls for 160 wells at 21 existing locations and 39 new locations, a 20-inch natural gas pipeline from Parachute to DeBeque connecting to the Trans Colorado pipeline, and a natural gas processing plant north of the American Soda plant.The 11-acre plant will extract liquids such as propane and butane, so the remaining methane gas meets pipeline specifications and can be transported, said Williams Production spokesperson Steve Soychak.Bennett said an environmental assessment for the Williams project is being conducted. “We’re getting close to a final draft,” Bennett said. After the final draft, the BLM will hold a public hearing and take comment.In other forum business:-Grand River Citizens Alliance said it will hold a meeting at the Battlement Mesa Activity Center on March 6 to discuss whether to pursue installing an air toxicity monitor in Parachute. An alliance member said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state health department would be involved with the project, which would produce baseline air quality data.-The forum agreed to hold meetings at least twice a year in the future, with a third if needed. The next meeting is slated for September in Rangely.

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