Oil and gas operators fill funding shortfall for study
Two local oil and gas operators recently stepped forward to fill a funding shortfall in a three-year air emissions study in Garfield County.
Caerus Oil and Gas and Laramie Energy agreed to cover $66,000 of the total $700,000 pledged by the industry to help pay for the study, which analyzes air emissions data from natural gas operations.
Colorado State University is conducting the study, whose largest single financial backer is Garfield County with $1 million invested in the research. Jeff Collett, head of the CSU Atmospheric Science Department, wrote in a March 22 letter to stakeholders that the team has worked diligently to complete the study with a budget well short of the originally desired $1.7 million — with an additional $100,000 hoped for from industry.
However, “the recent loss of a ($66,000) commitment jeopardizes the final, critical phase of the study,“ Collett wrote.
The study, which dates back to 2012 when county commissioners originally agreed to fund the project, is in its final stages, and researchers expect to provide results this summer.
Speaking before the county commissioners Monday morning, David Ludlam, Western Slope Colorado Oil & Gas Association executive director, pointed out that raising any amount of money in the current climate is a challenge.
A glut of natural gas has largely helped drive a drop in its price — which has plummeted from $6 per million British thermal unit (Btu) in February 2014 to $1.73 per million Btu, according to Henry Hub Natural Gas Spot Price.
The drop in price has led to a decline in activity in resource-rich areas including Garfield County, where the number of active rigs went from nine in February 2015 to a current number of two, according to the nonprofit Community Counts.
Despite the current difficulties, news of the funding shortfall sparked concern from industry stakeholders, who view the study as crucial to understanding the impact of oil and gas activities in relation to air quality, Ludlam said.
“And we do not want to see any kind of a shortfall, large or small, do anything to impeded progress on this study,” he stated.
Both Caerus and Laramie are playing increasingly larger roles in the Piceance Basin, which has experienced recent shifts in asset ownership. Representatives from each company on Monday expressed eagerness to contribute to the study.
“We appreciate the concerns brought forward regarding potential air quality impacts from the natural gas development in Garfield County and feel this (study) is an important step in addressing those concerns,” said Wayne Bankert of Laramie Energy.
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A continued decline in natural gas industry activity in Garfield County resulted in fewer members and fewer complaints from residents over the past year for Community Counts Colorado.