From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 32 - November 6, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Questar proposes multiple-well development

by Cat Urbigkit

Questar, a leading natural gas operator on the Pinedale Anticline, has proposed that for the company to completely exploit its natural gas leases on the anticline, it only needs authorization for nine more well pads and permission to expand its existing well pads on the Mesa.

If the nine pads were approved, the company would use directional drilling techniques and complete eight wells from each of those nine pads. If federal officials would approve the nine well locations, it would eliminate the need for some 72 single-well locations.

But there is a trade-off: in order to make the eight down-hole locations feasible from a single well pad, the company wants to be able to drill year-round, a controversial prospect within crucial big game winter range on the Mesa.

Questar's Pinedale Project operations manager Ron Hogan introduced the subject during an interview last week, explaining that company officials looked at concerns expressed by the public, considered feedback from the public and from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Hogan said the company examined "how it could resolve those concerns and come up with a better way of doing things."

The proposal will set a new standard for the way the company will move forward in its development work, he said. The standard will allow the company to continue development in a way that reduces risks to the environment and increases the economic stability for the community, Hogan said.

Of the 197,345-acre Pinedale Anticline Project Area, Questar's operations are concentrated in a 14,800-acre holding. About two-thirds of that area (8,600 acres) is considered the productive zone, where development is targeted. Questar currently has 75 bottom hole locations on the anticline and hopes to have 225-430 bottom hole locations within its production area.

"We are starting to get our directional drilling techniques a little better defined," Hogan said, adding, "Comfortably, we can drill a directional well about 2,100 feet away from the surface location."

The company wants to drill six to nine wells from each well pad, but those pads will need to be larger than the traditional single-well pads often used now. The multiple well pads may need to be about 13 acres in size to handle the drilling of eight wells in a safe manner. This would allow the possibility of two drilling rigs operating at the same time on two wells from the single location.

Hogan explained that Questar would have two to four active pads operating year-round, instead of about 14 active pads from May through October.

Questar's wells on the anticline are typically drilled to a depth of 14,000 feet, Hogan said. It costs Questar $4.5 million to complete a directional well, Hogan said, which is about $500,000 more than a conventional vertical well.

"There are placed we've not drilled," Hogan explained. "We need nine more pads and we can drill eight or more wells from a single pad. That will pretty well cover all of our possible bottom hole locations."

But Hogan emphasized that the nine-pad proposal is dependent upon BLM authorizing year-round drilling. To that end, Questar has applied for a winter drilling exception from the BLM for continued winter drilling on a new multiple-well pad. If approved, the company will construct an eight-well pad about five miles south of Pinedale. Five wells would be drilled this winter, with the other wells drilled during the summer months.

Questar's winter drilling proposal would allow the continuation of a winter mule deer study initiated in 2002. The purpose of the study is to analyze the effects of oil and gas operations on wintering mule deer using the anticline. Last winter Questar drilled five wells from a multiple well pad located about a half-mile from the pad now being proposed. Research to date has revealed no observed effect on habitat use, Hogan said. According to the BLM, last year's research report recommended that the study be continued: "Success of the study requires continued agency and industry support. Continuing this project to assess the impacts of energy development on mule deer winter ranges will provide information to assist current management, future planning, mitigation efforts and policy evaluation."

Neighbor program

Questar has instituted a new public relations program, called Neighbor to Neighbor, which encourages members of the public to meet one-on-one with company representatives to ask questions and learn more about the company's operations in the Pinedale area. To participate in the program, send an e-mail to QuestarN2N@aol.com or call toll free (877) 442-1387.

Questar facts

Questar started doing business in 1922 as Mountain Fuel Supply Company, operating out of Rock Springs. In 1929 it built a pipeline to Salt Lake City, aiding the city's switch from coal-dependence to a steady natural gas supply from western Wyoming.

Questar entered the development scenario for the Pinedale Anticline by drilling the Pinedale No. 8 well on the anticline in 1963. The company was then known as Mountain Fuel.

Questar has nine Pinedale-area employees and 277 southwestern Wyoming employees.

Questar's county-based production taxes are expected to triple by 2008.

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