County leads state in gas permits |

County leads state in gas permits

Donna GrayPost Independent Staff
Post Independent Photo/Kelley CoxA drilling rig looms above a residence in the Dry Hollow area south of Silt recently.

Garfield County continues to lead the pack in natural gas drilling activity.Weld County has historically led the state in drilling. But earlier this year Garfield County inched ahead in the numbers of well permits granted, and it remains out in front.Garfield County is the epicenter of increased activity (in the state), said Brian Macke, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.Statewide, theres been a 30 percent increase in drilling permits this year from 2004, with an estimated 4,000 permits expected for 2005, Macke said in a report on gas and oil production to the Northwest Oil and Gas Forum in Rifle last week.Weld County has accounted for about 30 percent of the well permits in the state, But because of a huge increase in permits in Garfield County, Weld now has about a quarter of the permits, Macke said. Garfield County has 27.3 percent of this years well permits, a total of 552. Weld County had 388 permits issued as of June 1. Rio Blanco and Mesa counties have also had significant upticks in activity last year and in 2005, Macke said.This year, 1,300 new well permits may be issued in Garfield County, compared to around 800 in 2004.Thats some kind of indication of where things are headed, Macke said.He said he expects the total number of active wells in the state to exceed 29,000 by years end. Weld still leads the state in the grand total of wells with 10,954, followed by 2,693 in La Plata County and 2,544 in Garfield County.Another indicator of the magnitude of the industry in the county, as well as the state, is the number of drilling rigs at work. Of the 70 to 80 active rigs in Colorado, about half are in Garfield County, Macke said.With all the drilling activity and producing wells, Colorado now produces about 3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. Garfield contributes 559 million cubic feet daily, making it No. 2 in the state for production, Macke said. Colorado gas production was valued at $7 billion in 2004 and is expected to rise to $8 billion this year.Thats conservative, Macke said.Gas prices have hovered between $5.50 and $7 per British thermal unit, which is two to three times higher than two and a half years ago. Its the most important (factor) driving gas development in Colorado, Macke said.Prices are also improving with more pipeline access to get gas to market. Garfield Countys natural gas industry is now worth about $1 billion in annual production.Im sure it will far surpass that next year, Macke said.Field inspector Jaime Adkins, of the COGCCs Battlement Mesa office, reported that he received 18 complaints in the first quarter of this year, a 100 percent increase from the same period in 2004, mostly from people who are not used to (gas) development, and who live in areas where new gas development is taking place. Adkins said the complaints were chiefly about dust and odors.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext.

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