Williams plans 554 new wells on 10-acre spacing | PostIndependent.com

Williams plans 554 new wells on 10-acre spacing

Williams, the Tulsa-based energy company, announced Friday it will seek state approval to drill 554 new gas wells on 10-acre spacing in western Garfield County.

All of the proposed wells would be drilled directionally off existing or planned well pads already approved under 40-acre and 20-acre spacing decisions, according to Steve Soychak, Williams’ Parachute field office manager.

The request will double the density of gas wells on 11,000 acres of private land, all north of the Colorado River. It must be approved by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission before the drilling can begin. A hearing is set for April.

Soychak said the 10-acre spacing request applies only to lands where the company already holds drilling agreements with the surface owners.

He said the drilling program could take five to 10 years, depending on how many drilling rigs Williams activates. The additional wells would recover an estimated 650 billion cubic feet of gas, enough to heat 300,000 homes for 20 years.

The company’s predecessor, Barrett Resources, successfully won state approval in 2000 to intensify drilling from one well per 40 acres to one well per 20 acres on both sides of the Colorado River from Rulison to Parachute.

But after a pilot program to drill wells on the 20-acre spacing, company geologists learned that 20-acre well spacing could recover only 40 to 45 percent of the gas.

With the 10-acre “downhole” well spacing, Williams should be able to drain 80 percent of the natural gas locked in the sandstone of the Williams Fork gas reservoir, 7,000 to 8,000 feet underground.

Although Barrett resisted the idea of directional drilling in 2002, Williams is planning on using the technique right from the start in this round.

With directional drilling, a rig uses one drill pad to drill vertically and diagonally to access four or five downhole well sites.

“The advantage to doing this now,” Soychak said of the 10-acre spacing request, “is it allows us to drill those 10-acre wells now, as opposed to waiting until later, so we will not have to redisturb those pads.”

The company will still have to redisturb some pads, and some new pads approved in 2000 have not yet been cleared, he noted.

But the company will be able to maximize its drilling on each pad, once and for all, he said. The intensified drilling program will also use existing roads and pipelines.

Rulison rancher Joan Savage said any drilling more dense than one well pad per 40 acres is unacceptable for the rich farmlands south of the Colorado River.

Soychak said the application does not seek to increase well density south of the river.

Savage said closer spacing in desert lands north of the river “is not too bad.”

Williams’ application comes just as the company is scaling back its Garfield County drilling program to allow the energy corporation to conserve cash. The company suffered huge losses in the collapse of Enron.

“We are going to scale back to one or two rigs come March,” Soychak said. Williams is currently running four rigs in the county.

“We will probably start drilling some of these wells, possibly in the third quarter of the year,” he said.

The company will spend $1 million to $1.5 million to drill each well. Soychak estimated that over 20 years of drilling and production, the 554 new wells would yield more than $100 million in tax revenues for Garfield County.

Contact Heather McGregor: 945-8515, ext. 517


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