Denver company looks to expand forest drilling |

Denver company looks to expand forest drilling

Post Independent Photo/Kelley CoxA Denver company is seeking permission to more than double exploratory gas drilling in the White River National Forest between Silt and Collbran.

A Denver company is seeking permission to more than double its natural gas drilling in the White River National Forest between Silt and Collbran.The Forest Service is seeking public comment on plans by Laramie Energy to drill up to four wells on one well pad, and possibly up to eight more wells on two more pads, about 16 miles south of Silt. The Forest Service also is reviewing plans for possible pipeline construction and other development activities associated with the drilling.The work would take place in the Alkali Creek area off the Silt-Collbran road.

Laramie already has permission to drill up to eight wells in the area, and drilled one of those there last fall, in the Hell’s Gulch area.Larry Sandoval, who is overseeing Laramie’s work for the Forest Service, said he believes that well is producing gas.Under the new proposal, the Forest Service would let Laramie begin exploration by drilling up to four wells from a pad to the north of the Hell’s Gulch area. If those wells prove viable, it then would be allowed to build nearly a mile of new road, reconstruct more than a half-mile of closed road, build two more well pads, and drill up to eight more wells as early as this year.The proposal will analyze alternatives for building pipelines to transport the gas to existing transmission lines. The proposed pipelines range from 7,450 to 14,650 feet in length. Also proposed is a 200-by-200-foot production facility, which will include a compressor station.The Forest Service opened the proposal up for public comment in late January and has received none yet, Sandoval said.

“We don’t anticipate any major hangups, I guess, at this point, but we’re early on in the process,” Sandoval said.Laramie conceivably could end up drilling 20 wells in the White River National Forest. That’s as many as the WRNF had envisioned being drilled throughout the forest in its current management plan, released in 2002.That forecast was based on a 1993 oil and gas analysis, and the fact that the Forest Service saw no drilling on the forest between then and when it revised its forest plan. However, energy producers have been showing interest in the forest in the last two years.Sandoval said that to date, probably about 11 wells that could be drilled this year have been approved on the forest.One involves possible exploratory drilling by EnCana Oil & Gas on an existing well pad in the Wolf Creek gas storage field above Four-Mile Park southwest of Sunlight Mountain Resort.

Others wells have been approved in the West Divide Creek area south of Silt and the West Mamm Creek area south of Rifle. The Forest Service hasn’t decided yet whether to allow drilling by EnCana in an East Mamm Creek roadless area. Some environmentalists have raised concerns about that proposal.Overall, Sandoval said, the White River National Forest is getting fewer drilling applications this year than it did last year.That could have to do with the greater ease that companies have in drilling on lower-elevation, private lands, he said. Environmental reviews for drilling on national forest can easily take six months, if all goes well, Sandoval said.”We’ve had some projects that have been in the works for over a year,” he said.Laramie’s project also faces restrictions on wintertime activities because it would occur in deer and elk winter range.

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