Use of directional drilling increases dramatically in county and state

Phillip YatesGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Statistics from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission show a dramatic surge in the use of directional drilling across the state of Colorado.Many gas companies use the technique, which allows drills to be aimed at an angle to penetrate the underlying rock formations, enabling multiple wells to be drilled from one well pad. Energy companies say directional drilling can help mitigate surface environmental and wildlife disturbances drilling operations can have in northwest Colorado. Doug Hock, a spokesman for EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), said the statewide increase in directional drilling is mainly due to operations in the Piceance Basin and in Garfield County, where most wells are drilled directionally. The company, at its North Parachute Ranch property, can drill up to 28 wells per pad, Hock said. “Ninety-five percent of the wells, probably even more than that, probably 99 percent of the wells drilled in the Piceance Basin are drilled directionally,” said Hock, adding that the technology has really accelerated in the last five years. “As there is more and more activity in that basin every year – where the bulk of Colorado’s natural gas boom is occurring – you will see those percentages of directional drilling increase.”As of Dec. 6, 2,360 drilling permits were issued in Garfield County – more than the number of permits issued across the entire state of Colorado in 2003. The number of permits issued in Garfield County this year shot up by 27 percent compared to last year.Although the COGCC doesn’t break down the number of directional drilling permits by county, the technique has soared statewide in use in the last five years, according to the COGCC statistics. The statistics show that the number of directional drilling permits approved by the state as of Dec. 6 stood at 3,403 – about 56.7 of all the drilling permits issued in the state this year.Last year, the state issued 2,773 directional drilling permits – or about 46.9 of all permits issued in 2006. In 2005, just 40.8 of all permits issued by the COGCC were for directional drilling. In 2004 and 2003, the directional drilling permit percentages stood at 31 percent and 26 percent, respectively.Hock said directional drilling, which came from off-shore drilling practices, is more expensive, but companies pursue it because it is preferable for both companies and landowners. “It allows us to access a bunch of different parcels without having to have surface agreements with a bunch of surface owners,” Hock said. “From a landowner and environmental point of view, it decreases the surface impact and with the new technologies that are now available, it is allowing us to do more and more wells directionally from a single pad.”Susan Alvillar, a spokeswoman for Williams Production RMT, said the company can drill up to 24 wells per pad. All of the wells the company drills in the region are drilled directionally, Alvillar said.”We don’t drill any vertical wells,” Alvillar said. “It is imperative, especially in densely populated areas, to use directional drilling, but by using our flex rig … the landowner knows that once that drilling rig is gone from that particular location, it will never come back.”With the company’s “flex rigs,” workers can drill and complete wells, and also sell gas, all at the same time from a single well pad, Alvillar said.”That not only has been the key for working with landowners, it has also been the key for working with the (Colorado) Division of Wildlife on sensitive habitat areas,” Alvillar said. Duke Cox, interim executive director of the Western Colorado Congress and former president of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said his organization and others in the area have been asking the energy companies for an emphasis on clustered gas development for years – a technique that is dependent on directional drilling.The WCC would also like to see standards that require directional drilling, which could come as the COGCC begins drafting its rules to implement new state legislation requiring it to balance out energy development with protection of the environment and wildlife.Cox said the increase in directional drilling permits is a trend his group “would like to see continue.” “We are happy to see that,” Cox said. “We would like to see more of that.”Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117pyates@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO

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