Official: Antero won’t drill on Silt Mesa this year

John Colson
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

SILT, Colorado – Antero Resources will not be drilling gas wells north of Highway 6 in the Silt Mesa area in 2012, according to company vice president Kevin Kilstrom.

However, the company plans to drill about 50 wells south of the Colorado River, and may drill one well in Cactus Valley, which lies just west of Silt Mesa, as part of a unitization program.

Kilstrom addressed an overflow crowd of 100 people gathered at the Silt Fire House on Wednesday evening for the company’s annual meeting with residents of the area.

Antero expects to drill about 50 new wells into the Williams Fork Formation, 7,000 to 8,000 feet underground, and will complete 50 wells – some drilled last year and some to be drilled this year.

Completion of a well uses the technique of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” the process of injecting pressurized water, sand and chemicals underground to fracture rock formations and bring gas to the surface.

Kilstrom said Antero had about 250 producing wells in the area pumping out natural gas at the end of 2011, and hopes to have 300 producing wells in operation by the end of 2012.

The company is also looking into drilling a well into the Niobrara Shale formation, which is deeper than the Williams Fork Formation. It is being heralded by the industry as the next big natural gas boom.

Antero has unitized a batch of Cactus Valley natural gas leases on lands north and west of Silt, Kilstrom said. The process could, over time, lead to drilling as many as 65 wells, he said.

Unitization is a federal procedure for combining numerous adjacent leases into a common unit. Once unitized, companies can take a geographically broader, long-term approach to developing leases within the unit.

Leases that would normally expire if they hadn’t been developed within 10 years can be extended indefinitely when placed in a unit.

One “obligation well,” required by federal minerals managers when a unit is established, was drilled and fracked last year in the Cactus Valley unit, Kilstrom said.

The company will be working with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency in charge of unitization of gas leases, to determine if the well is productive and viable.

If the BLM grants what is known as a “paying well determination” for that obligation well, the company will be required to drill another well within 90 days to keep the unit active, said Antero geologist Brian Wade.

After that, the company could take up to five years to drill a subsequent well within the unit, he said.

The company also continues work on a comprehensive drilling plan (CDP) for the South Gravel Trend, an 8,200-acre area south of and parallel to the Colorado River south of Silt.

The CDP, submitted last fall but then withdrawn, called for construction of 21 new well pads and the possible expansion of 41 existing pads.

Kilstrom said the company is reviewing comments on the draft CDP submitted by area agencies and governments, and public comments will be solicited in the future.

“It’s a long process,” he said. “It’s not quite as simple as we thought it would be.”

He said creating a comprehensive drilling plan is voluntary. Once it is completed and accepted by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, it will be available for public viewing on the COGCC website.

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