A 65-year history of drilling in the Thompson Divide | PostIndependent.com

A 65-year history of drilling in the Thompson Divide

John ColsonPost Independent StaffGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Map prepared by U.S. Bureau of Land Management, CoThe red dots on this map show all existing gas wells in the area from Divide Creek, upper left, to Muddy Creek, bottom center. The blue boundary line defines the Thompson Divide area. Well sites within that line were drilled between 1947 and the mid-1980s.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Drilling on public lands for natural gas in the Thompson Divide area has been taking place for more than 65 years, according to federal officials.The first natural gas well in the Thompson Divide area was drilled in Pitkin County in 1947, in Coal Basin near Redstone, by Superior Oil Co., according to federal records.”There has been some oil and gas drilling in Thompson Divide every decade since,” said David Boyd, public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office near Silt.The 221,500-acre Thompson Divide area stretches from Sunlight Mountain Resort south to McClure Pass, and from the Crystal River west to Divide Creek, taking in eight watersheds and parts of Garfield, Pitkin, Mesa, Delta and Gunnison counties.It has been the focus of intense controversy in recent years, after Houston-based SG Interests announced plans to begin drilling in Thompson Divide.The earliest known gas well in the region, according to Boyd, was a well drilled in 1939 in Mesa County, about 10 miles west of the Thompson Divide area.Now owned by Encana Oil and Gas (USA), the well was not put into production until 1956, according to Boyd’s research, and remains in production today.Energy companies have drilled a total of 34 oil and gas wells on public lands in the Thompson Divide since 1947, Boyd reported.The companies involved have included SG Interests, Westrans Petroleum, Riviera Drilling and Exploration Co., Superior Oil Co., Sunray DX Oil Co., Willsource Enterprises, Clark Oil & Refining Corp., Prenalta Corp., SourceGas Energy Services, Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., Rainbow Resources, Gasco Inc., The California Company, TRW Exploration & Production, and two individuals named Tom Vessels and T.R. Wadkins.Chronologically, only two wells were drilled prior to 1960. Companies drilled 14 wells in the 1960s, followed by four in the 1970s, six in the 1980s, five in the 1990s and three since 2000, for the total of 34.All of those wells yielded natural gas, but not all were put into production, Boyd’s data showed.Companies left some wells idle “likely due to access, pipeline or quantity issues,” Boyd said.He noted that 14 wells have been producing natural gas, and two Mesa County wells are shut-in but considered capable of producing gas.The wells drilled on public lands in the Thompson Divide area are in five counties: 16 in Pitkin, five in Gunnison, four in Garfield, four in Mesa and two in Delta.Of the 16 wells drilled in Pitkin County since 1960, 11 were put into production, including seven wells now used as part of the Wolf Creek Storage Area maintained by the SourceGas natural gas utility, Boyd said.Three wells were drilled in the Wolf Creek unit solely for storage purposes, and are not producing gas wells.The first producing well drilled in the Garfield County portion of Thompson Divide was in 1960. The JV Rose 1 well, drilled by an unknown company, was west of the confluence of Cattle Creek and the Roaring Fork River, according to Boyd’s research.Three others were drilled in the 1980s – one in Four Mile Park, one north of Babbish Gulch near Sunlight Mountain Resort, and one near the old Marion Mine along County Road 123 (Marion Cemetery Road).The most recent wells drilled in the Thompson Divide area, according to Boyd’s research, were in Mesa County in 2004, and in Delta County in 2006.The 2004 Mesa County wells are the “shut in” wells that are considered capable of producing gas in the future.The 2006 Delta County well is owned by SG Interests of Houston, Texas, and is the only currently producing well in the Thompson Divide area of that county.

According to Boyd, the 9,524-acre Wolf Creek Storage Area, operated by SourceGas, “is critical to reliably supplying natural gas to communities from Glenwood Springs to Aspen.”Only natural gas that has been processed, odorized and meets appropriate gas specification for retail delivery is stored here,” Boyd wrote.Although first drilled for production in the 1960s, the wells ran dry and in 1972 the company first began using the deep, porous Mesa Verde sandstone formation for gas storage.Formally identified and designated as a storage field in 1977, it now includes 10 well pads, including seven active injection and extraction wells and three monitoring wells, according to Boyd.The capacity of the storage field is 3 billion cubic feet of gas (BCF), with a reserve capacity of 7.4 BCF, Boyd wrote.Injection and extraction rates average 1 BCF to 1.5 BCF per year.The storage area is regulated by the BLM and the U.S. Department of Transportation, although surfaces uses within the boundaries of the storage area are monitored by the U.S. Forest Service.jcolson@postindependent.com

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