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Williams partners with DOW

Donna GrayGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. A ground-breaking three-year wildlife study financed by Williams Production has prompted the Bureau of Land Management to lift a winter drilling restriction in an area northeast of Parachute. In a deal between BLM and Williams, the federal agency has agreed to allow Williams to continue drilling in the Hayes Gulch area during the normally prohibited period, Dec. 1 through May 31. Williams has also agreed not drill on its private lease holding on the valley floor.”DOW (the Colorado Division of Wildlife) came to us with the proposal,” said BLM spokesman David Boyd. Requests to lift winter drilling restrictions are granted, or not, by BLM with consultation from DOW.”They said, ‘We think its a good opportunity'” to study mule deer movement during the winter, Boyd said.Boyd also said the restriction was lifted for this winter only and would be evaluated next winter. Williams, which contributed $600,000 to the project, is using its new high efficiency rigs, which can drill, complete and put wells into production at the same time while leaving a smaller footprint than conventional rigs. Such simultaneous operations reduce drilling time for the area “from four to five years to about 16 months,” said Rob Vincent, Williams district production engineer.The company plans to drill 62 wells from five well pads.Williams has installed an above-ground system of pipes that will bring fracturing fluids and water up to the rigs. Fracturing operations will be conducted from a pad on private land about a mile away from the rigs, Vincent said.No water or fracturing fluid will be trucked to the pads. The pads will be much smaller than usual, less than two acres, as opposed to the conventional 3 to 5 acres, which have room for condensate tanks, Vincent said.Water and condensate produced in the wells will flow within the closed system rather than being stored in open pits and tanks on the well pads.”DOW and BLM saw this as an advantage from an environmental perspective because there’s less time frame for disturbance and environmental impact,” said Rob Bleil, Williams senior environmental specialist.”We’re looking to assess (deer) movement caused by or related to energy development,” said DOW spokesman Randy Hampton. Last week a consultant hired by DOW captured a group of mule deer using a net shot from a helicopter over the animals. They captured 60 mule deer in the Hayes Gulch area and fitted them with radio collars. The collars, some of which send global positioning system readings via satellite every two hours, pinpointing the animals, “will be used to track the animals over time,” Hampton said.DOW welcomed the opportunity to do the study, Hampton said. The drilling prohibitions in critical big game winter range were put in place to protect deer and elk. But in the area of oil and gas development along the Interstate 70 corridor between Parachute and DeBeque, DOW has also seen a worrisome trend.”Where there’s a mixture of public and private land, because of timing stipulations, companies bring in their rigs, set them up and begin drilling and when they hit winter they pull off public land and hit private,” Hampton said. “In some cases we’ve seen that private land may have better winter habitat, so they’re forcing the deer off private and on to public land, which might not be such a good idea.”In Hayes Gulch, the land is characterized by steep slopes covered with sparse stands of pinon and juniper trees, sagebrush and little grass. It is the valley floors, the private land, where Williams and other companies usually drill in the winter, that is the better habitat.The area where Williams has agreed not to drill, on the valley floor, is also critical to the study. “We will see what the deer are doing there,” Hampton said.Contact Donna Gray: 945-8515, ext. 16605dgray@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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