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Natural gas company plans 800 new wells

Dennis Webb

Williams Production plans to drill more than 800 new wells in Garfield County over the next three years.That will almost double the number of wells Williams has in production in the county, said Steve Soychak, district manager for Williams in Parachute.Williams is the county’s second-largest natural gas producer. EnCana Oil & Gas is the biggest. Williams has 980 producing wells in the county, Soychak reported Thursday at a meeting of the Northwest Colorado Oil and Gas Forum at the county fairgrounds in Rifle. A total of 2,025 wells are in production in the county. That’s fourth-highest among counties statewide.Williams produces 300 million cubic feet of gas per day, enough to heat 1 million homes, Soychak said.The company started this year producing 200 million cubic feet per day, and expects to reach 400 million cubic feet per day by the end of 2005.Williams also plans to start work in April on expanding the capacity of its Parachute Creek gas plant from 117 million to 300 million cubic feet per day, Soychak said. Four gas plants and 250 miles of pipelines serve Williams’ Garfield County wells.As the company has grown, so has the number of jobs it is creating. Williams employed about 20 people and 120 contractors in Garfield County six years ago, and today has almost 70 people on its payroll, 10 consultants and temporary employees and more than 600 contract workers.”That’s one of the biggest problems we’ve having right now is a shortage of a labor force. Some people are moving in from Logan, Utah, to work on rigs,” Soychak said.Williams has hired some employees who lost their jobs when the American Soda nahcolite and baking soda plant in Parachute was mothballed, and is hiring some people who have been laid off from jobs in Grand Junction, Soychak said. Williams and other county energy producers are working with Colorado Mountain College to try to find more trained help.Many of Williams’ Garfield County operations are concentrated between Parachute and Rifle, north of the Colorado River.Soychak said Williams is doing 100 percent directional drilling – drilling more than one well from the same well pad – to minimize impacts. Also, next year it plans to start using new drilling rigs that are half the size of traditional ones and require half the ground space.Williams plans to drill 270 to 300 wells next year, and roughly 300 per year in 2006 and 2007, Soychak said.EnCana expects to drill a total of 245 wells in its South Piceance Basin division this year. That division runs roughly from DeBeque to Silt, south of Interstate 70.EnCana is projecting a similar amount of drilling there next year. It also plans to drill 150 wells between its North Piceance Basin operations on recently acquired Unocal land north of Interstate 70 in western Garfield County, and its operations in the Paradox Basin area near Naturita, Colo., south of Grand Junction near the Utah border.EnCana and Williams are contributing to a record year of drilling in Colorado. Statewide, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff expects about 2,750 permits to be issued this year, and the value of gas production to reach $6.6 billion for the year.State and county authorities expect permits in Garfield County to top 700 for 2004, or 900 if permits to do recompletion on existing wells are counted.Weld County continues to edge out Garfield County as the state leader in permits issued. However, about half of the 63 rigs in the state are operating in Garfield County. Fewer rigs are needed to drill more wells in Weld County because of easier drilling conditions there.The COGCC is transferring a second staff member, Jay Krabacher, to Garfield County in response to the level of activity here.Despite that activity, the number of complaints filed with the COGCC regarding local energy operations totaled 11 in the past three months – less than in the past. While COGCC staff credit better efforts by operators to respond to concerns, Rifle-area resident Garland Anderson said some people may have stopped complaining because they don’t feel their complaints are being addressed.”You can only complain so much” about things such as noise and odors, he said.”Everybody tells you that’s just normal in the industry,” he said. “But it’s not normal in our neighborhood.”Orlyn Bell, who lives south of Silt, said he thinks the impacts of energy production are worse in Garfield County than Weld County due to the number of rigs working here.Brian Macke, director of the COGCC, agreed.”That’s where the rubber hits the road, is where the drilling rigs are being active,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. 516dwebb@postindependent.com


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