Drilling future: 10,000 wells in 10 years?
Most people look at the amount of drilling in Garfield County and think it’s in the middle of a natural gas boom.Those closer to the industry see it differently: The boom has just begun.”It is very, very early,” said Randy Udall of Carbondale, director of the Community Office for Resource Efficiency, an Aspen-based nonprofit office that promotes renewable energy and energy efficiency.Consider this: For all the drilling that has occurred in the county in the past decade, the county had 1,669 active wells as of January, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission. In the next 10 years, 5,000 to 10,000 new wells could be drilled here.”That’s possible, very possible that that could happen,” said Steve Soychak, district manager in Parachute for Williams Production, one of the leading gas developers in the county.”As long as the prices stay high like they are now, I would see that happening,” Doug Dennison, Garfield County’s oil and gas auditor, agreed.Brian Macke, deputy director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, said 5,000 to 10,000 new wells in the next decade is a “pretty safe guestimate.” If current demand and price levels hold up, and local drilling continues to prove successful, there’s good reason to think the current pace of drilling will stay steady, or even pick up, he said.Udall points out that gas fields in western Garfield County, in the center of northwest Colorado’s Piceance Basin gas field, have yet to produce a trillion cubic feet of gas. That in itself would be enough to heat as many as a half-million homes for 25 years, according to industry estimates.The Colorado Geological Survey has estimated as much as 20 trillion cubic feet – or a little more than the nation’s total annual natural gas production in recent years, and close to its annual gas consumption – eventually could be recovered from these fields.”There’s some people that say it could be as much as 100 trillion” cubic feet of recoverable reserves in the Piceance Basin, said Soychak.In fact, the industry estimates of total reserves for the Piceance Basin run as high as 300 tcf, although Soychak still considers 100 tcf a good upper limit in discussions about how much might be recovered.”There’s probably some undiscovered areas out here between northwest Colorado and northeast Utah,” Soychak said.”I think there will be more areas discovered in Garfield County that will be developed.”Just developing existing reserves could take five to seven years, Soychak said.”But I’m sure there’s probably another 7-10 years beyond that,” he said.And a typical well will continue to produce for 20 or 30 years, Macke said.Meanwhile, the issue of the Roan Plateau continues to loom over discussions of the future of drilling in the Piceance Basin. The plateau is home to an estimated 5 trillion cubic feet of reserves. That could be worth $25 billion, based on recent prices.The Bureau of Land Management currently is working on a management plan that will dictate how much drilling occurs in and around the plateau in coming decades. Environmentalists and local communities have called for no drilling to be allowed on top of the plateau.By most any measure, the Piceance Basin gas field is becoming an industry giant. The story of why is multifold, having to do with soaring natural gas prices due to increased demand, and the application of improved technology to what was once a difficult field to develop.Over coming days, the Post Independent will further explore these aspects of the natural gas boom, and its implications for a county already feeling the impacts of drilling and natural gas production.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
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