EnCana drills for coal bed methane | PostIndependent.com

EnCana drills for coal bed methane

Lynn BurtonPost Independent Staff
Post Independent photo/Kelley Cox

EnCana Oil & Gas is drilling exploratory coal bed methane wells in its Mamm Creek field south of Silt – making the first play for that energy source in Garfield County.But EnCana team leader Joel Fox said coal bed methane drilling here won’t produce huge amounts of polluted water as it does in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.Fox explained the company’s plans and answered questions during a dinner meeting the Canadian company hosted for about 125 Mamm Creek residents Tuesday at the Rifle Elks Lodge.”The biggest fear with coal bed methane is water,” Fox said.The difference between Mamm Creek and the Powder River Basin is the depth at which the coal, from which methane is extracted, is located.In the Powder River Basin, the coal is located at 300 feet, the same depth as the aquifer ranchers use for agriculture, Fox said.In the Mamm Creek field, the coal is located a 6,000 to 7,000 feet underground, far below the area’s deepest water wells, at 450 feet.Residents then wanted to know if high quality water could be lost to lower depths due to drilling activity, rather than salt water rising up to pollute water wells.”How can you guarantee surface water won’t drain down to a lower level?” asked resident Dave Howell.Fox said Divide Creek’s geological structure prevents upper level water from percolating down through 6,000 to 7,000 feet of sandstone. Colorado gas drilling regulations also require safety linings in natural gas well bores to prevent surface water from seeping to lower depths.”There are so many fail-safe mechanisms in place,” EnCana engineering consultant Craig Meis told the audience. “That’s what the regulations are put into place for.”

EnCana Oil & Gas, and its corporate predecessors, explored for natural gas in the Mamm Creek field since early 2001, said company spokeswoman Sherry Long. She said the company plans to drill up to 250 wells in the larger Mamm Creek area this year, at a cost of $1 million each, and 10 percent of those wells are planned within the Divide Creek area.”There has been a lack of communication, and that has been a major concern,” Long said as folks finished their last bites of barbecued roast beef.Fox said EnCana couldn’t address all the residents’ concerns in one night, “but we’re trying to make a dent in it.”Fox and more than a half dozen EnCana employees and consultants stood below the Elk Lodge Bingo scoreboard to give slide show presentations and field questions.Fox emphasized that area water wells are not threatened from drilling operations.Divide Creek resident Rosemary Bilchak asked if EnCana is so confident its drilling won’t hurt water quality, why doesn’t it sign agreements with each well owner to insure their protection.”I don’t think we’d have a problem with that,” answered EnCana landman Doug Jones, “if we can structure an agreement.”Questions from the audience, which at times turned sharp, touched on EnCana’s pipeline construction project, an allegation of rising crime rates in the area, and heavy truck traffic.”My wife was almost killed on Dry Hollow Road by an oil company driver,” said Divide Creek resident Ray Enright.”What kind of communication goes on between you and the guys in the field?” asked area resident Bill Griffin, moments later.By the time Enright and Griffin commented, Lynn McCray logged in several times on damage to her property allegedly caused by drilling activity.”You are storming through this area,” McCray said. “Mistakes have been made.”On that note, several audience members at the back of the room loudly got up and left.”It was just a big schmooze job … a public relations effort,” said Enright after the meeting ended.He said he hoped for more give and take, and wasn’t satisfied with answers EnCana officials gave. At the same time, he noted that some who attended were confrontational and argumentative.”Some of the audience was out of line. They were a little mouthy,” Enright said.Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534lburton@postindependent.com

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