Four Mile-area gas storage well project moves forward

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times
A steady stream of pipe is fed to a WPX Energy drill rig north of Parachute. WPX is the only major producer currently operating in the Piceance Basin, which includes western Garfield County.
Aubree Dallas/The Aspen Times

Black Hills Energy received permission Tuesday from Pitkin County’s Planning and Zoning Commission to drill two replacement natural gas storage wells at a facility in the Thompson Divide area southwest of Glenwood Springs.

However, the county’s land use code requires a second review of the project that will likely be done administratively within the Community Development Department before final permission can be granted, said Ellen Sassano, long-range planner.

Black Hills wants to replace two storage wells that are no longer operational at the Wolf Creek Storage Field, according to a Black Hills news release and other sources. The replacement natural gas wells — which store already produced natural gas until it is ready for distribution via pipelines — will be drilled on the existing well pads, the company has said.

The Wolf Creek Storage Field is unrelated to the controversial cancellation of undeveloped oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide area by the Bureau of Land Management. The storage area is a former natural gas-producing field in the White River National Forest and the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District that was depleted in the early 1970s, Sassano said.

Black Hills Energy injects natural gas into the wells in the summer and then extracts and distributes it during the high-demand winter months, according to the news release.

The site is located south of Four Mile Park in the Glenwood Springs area, though it is fully within the boundaries of Pitkin County. However, it is accessed using Four Mile Road in Garfield County, so county commissioners there have been asked to weigh in on truck traffic aspects of the project.

Pitkin County land-use planners will work with members of the Crystal River Caucus during the second review of the project, Sassano said. Those county residents have raised concerns about some of the conditions placed on the project by the Planning and Zoning Commission, she said.

The second half of the permit may be approved in the next four to six weeks, she said.

Meanwhile, those with comments or concerns about the project can email Sassano at

Black Hills Energy also must receive permits from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the U.S. Forest Service and the BLM. The company hopes to begin the project this summer depending on when permits are issued and when the snow melts, said Carly West, a Black Hills spokesperson.

The U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday asked for public comment on the project, which it will accept for the next 30 days, according to a news release. The USFS will evaluate the surface impacts of the project, while the BLM will focus on the below the surface aspects, according to the USFS release.

“The Forest is required by law to work with oil and gas operators that have leases on National Forest … lands,” the release states. “This storage lease is a valid and existing lease.”

For more information and to submit a comment to the USFS go to: Project updates will also be available at​

Attempts Wednesday to reach officials with the Wilderness Workshop in Carbondale — which helped lead the charge to cancel the undeveloped oil and gas leases in the Thompson Divide — for comment on the Wolf Creek project were not successful.

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