Garfield County claims 40 percent of Colorado’s natural gas activity |

Garfield County claims 40 percent of Colorado’s natural gas activity

Post Independent/Kara K. PearsonA gas rig worker trips pipe on a site near West Rifle. Garfield County issued a record number of drilling permits in 2005.

As it has been over the last few years, the oil and gas industry was the leading economic catalyst in Garfield County in 2005. Garfield County remains on the forefront of the natural gas industry with 40 percent of development and production in the state.Garfield is expected to see a record 1,400 drilling permits issued by year end. Leading the industry in exploration and production are Canada-based EnCana Oil and Gas (USA) and Williams, headquartered in Tulsa, Okla. EnCana has projected it will have drilled approximately 260 wells in its north and south Piceance fields in 2005. Williams, the second-largest producer in Garfield County, drilled approximately 290 wells in 2005 in its operations around Parachute.The Bureau of Land Management made headlines with its Roan Plateau resource management plan, which drew criticism from local and national environmental groups. The draft plan recommends drilling for natural gas on top of the plateau north of Rifle.

Local governments for the most part opposed the draft plan.This summer the BLM met with cooperating agencies, including local governments and agencies of the state Department of Natural Resources. The state proposed an alternative to the BLM plan that called for leasing the top of the plateau in blocks that would be developed by one operator sharing costs and revenue with the lease-holders. BLM has not yet finalized its plan for drilling but said it could consider the DNR proposal.Oil shale’s resurrection was amply assured when the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which passed in August, required the BLM to begin leasing oil shale tracts for commercial production by August 2007. In September, the BLM offered oil shale lands in the Piceance Basin for lease for research and development. Shell Oil already has a research project under way in the Piceance south of Meeker, testing an in-ground heating system to liquefy the shale and pump it to the surface.Eight companies applied for leases in Colorado, including Shell, Exxon Mobile and Chevron Shale Oil Co. Exxon and Chevron were key players in the oil shale boom of the late ’70s and early ’80s.

What could be a landmark plan for natural-gas development between Rifle and New Castle was launched this spring. The Rifle/Silt/New Castle Community Development Project began when residents of those areas realized it was only a matter of time until drill rigs loomed over their neighborhoods. Organizers allied with Antero Resources, which is already drilling in the Silt area, to craft the plan.Central to the plan is clustered development that would concentrate drilling and minimize construction of roads, pipelines and processing equipment.In response to concern about the impacts of the gas industry from local citizens, Garfield County commissioned four studies financed in part from a landmark $371,200 fine levied against EnCana in 2004 as a result of a natural gas seep in West Divide Creek south of Silt. A $174,500 study by URS Corp. of Denver will examine the potential impacts of natural gas development on water resources in western Garfield County. It will investigate ground and surface water south of Silt and Rifle, where much of the county’s gas exploration and production is occurring.A county-financed cumulative impact study by BBC Research and Consulting of Denver will focus on how land values have been impacted by gas development, local government revenues from the industry, employment growth and the industry’s effect on the economy.

Also under study is the county’s air quality. Air samples are being collected from sites in Parachute, Rifle and Glenwood Springs.The county will spend $380,000 on the study, and received a $10,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.In other news, in July a truck carrying 2,530 gallons of crude oil or condensate from an EnCana well overturned on Dry Hollow Road about six miles south of Silt. The sludge spread for about 1,500 feet into a borrow ditch alongside the road and into a pasture. It did not contaminate any nearby domestic wells.Also, a natural gas production company has sought permission to drill around the site of Project Rulison east of Battlement Mesa, where a proton bomb was set off underground in 1969 in an attempt to free up natural gas. The test was considered a failure because of the radioactivity in the gas.Presco wants to drill within a 500-acre moratorium area and is scheduled to plead its case in front of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in January.

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