GarCo remains a leader in natural gas production |

GarCo remains a leader in natural gas production

Garfield County continues to surge ahead as the state’s busiest area for natural gas development. At a quarterly meeting of the Northwest Oil and Gas Forum in Rifle Thursday, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission director Brian Macke said the county leads the state in the number of natural gas well permits issued last year, and is “neck-and-neck” with Weld County for permits issued so far in 2006.Macke said high gas prices are driving the momentum. The Piceance Basin, much of which sits in the county, is one of the most productive gas fields in the state. In fact, Garfield surpasses Weld County for gas production. Weld leads the state in the number of producing wells with more than 11,400. Garfield has more than 3,000 active wells. It trails only La Plata County for production volumes, Macke said.Macke predicted Garfield will produce 260 billion cubic feet of gas this year, one-quarter of the state’s production, which could reach 1.2 trillion cubic feet in 2006.Gas prices spiked to over $14 per British thermal unit nationally last year, chiefly because the two hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, that hit the Gulf Coast last summer and fall, took out a significant portion of the nation’s natural gas production. Prices have now leveled off to about $6 per BTU currently. “That’s still very strong gas pricing,” Macke said.At that level, Garfield County’s gas was worth $2 billion last year and looks to double in 2006.Garfield also leads the state in the number of wells permitted last year and looks to continue that trend this year with 34.7 percent of the permits issued. The percentage should reach 40 to 45 percent this year.”So far this year Garfield and Weld are neck and neck,” Macke said.Local gas producers also reported on their activities at the forum.Williams, one of the largest producers in the Piceance Basin, currently has 1,300 wells producing 435 million cubic feet of gas daily, said district manager Steve Soychak.”That’s enough (gas) to heat two million homes every day,” he said.The company now has 20 rigs at work in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, with the majority in Garfield.Williams plans to drill between 400 and 450 wells this year and will use a new full-automated drilling rig, Soychak said.The diesel electric motors will be quieter than conventional rigs and more environmentally friendly since between 10 and 16 wells can be drilled from one pad, Soychak said.EnCana, also a major gas player in the Piceance, looks to drill approximately 268 wells this year.”We’ve cut our program a little bit this year,” said operations superintendent David Grisso.According to a story in the Calgary (Alberta, Canada) Herald, the energy company, which is headquartered in Calgary, cut its operating budget by $200 million this year. It had originally planned to drill 350 wells in the Piceance but reduced that number partly because of the increased cost to drill and complete a well, which it said rose 18 percent in 2005 over the previous year.EnCana currently has 22 rigs working in the Piceance, and its wells are producing 380 million cubic feet of gas daily, Grisso said.Other operators reporting on their activity included Bill Barrett, which said it will drill 70 wells this year between Mamm and Divide creeks and Antero, which looks to drill 40 wells between Rifle and Silt.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext.

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