From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 4 - April 24, 2003
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Jonah Field: Remarkable, but typical

by Stephen Reynolds

Operators of the Jonah Field have returned to the public stage with their Bureau of Land Management partners to complete a fourth environmental analysis exercise in the last seven years. The reason for this new activity is based upon success, not environmental risk. That success has been one of the most remarkable stories of free enterprise and responsible stewardship in this state's history.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission first recorded production from the Jonah Field in September of 1992. Casper-based McMurry Oil Company, with careful attention to well completion technology, proved that this special geological area of tight gas formations could yield economically viable volumes of gas. The Jonah Field has obtained world-class status in the 21st Century.

From a relatively small footprint of 30,000 acres, the field has achieved the status of the second most productive in the state. Currently, the largest field is the Powder River Basin coalbed natural gas production, which covers millions of acres and involves thousands of wells.

The scenario of Jonah is remarkable in its success; about 700 million cubic feet of gas are delivered to the growing U.S. gas marketplace every day. On the other hand, it is typical of the sort of story seen in Wyoming. Oil and gas exploration is based upon science, but the effort to risk significant dollars to explore and discover these natural resources buried deep in the ground, and history, is based upon a spirit of independence, typical of many Wyoming-based operators.

Over and over again, a small Wyoming firm undertakes the creative and risky exercise of proving that wealth can be extracted deep from Wyoming's formations. The Powder River Basin and Jonah stories are the best examples of this type of enterprise: A Wyoming character of independence, entrepreneurial spirit, careful stewardship of the land and a good-neighbor policy toward their fellow citizens.

While Wyoming can be proud of its oil and gas explorers, we also cannot often complete the full field development of these special natural resources without some help from the other sources.

Our great state has achieved world-class status is a number of energy and mineral categories. Among the 50 states, we rank number one in coal production, trona production and uranium resources. We rank in the top five for natural gas and in the top 10 for crude oil. In all cases, the achievement of such ranking was accomplished because we were able to attract capital and technology into our state. While we have great stocks of raw natural resources, we are capital poor.

The capital centers of the world are not in Wyoming, New Mexico or Alaska. Rather, capital centers are in cities like New York, London and Hong Kong: cities without natural resources. The financial institutions that collect risk capital and distribute it look for good opportunities to support responsible business. Wyoming, as a state with natural resources, has to attract some of that capital in a very competitive marketplace.

We have been lucky! The character of our homegrown businesspeople and their ability to prove the viability of creating wealth from natural resources has become a strong competitor for needed capital.

Our own Jonah Field is a good example. From the outstanding success of proving the worth of the field, Jonah became a candidate for other sources of capital to come in and build upon the base to carry field development forward.

In 2000, Alberta Energy Company acquired the leases and operating interests of McMurry's position in the Jonah Field. The Canadian independent oil and gas company merged with other Canadian interests in 2002 to become EnCana, one of the world's leading oil and gas companies, and North America's largest independent natural-gas producer and gas-storage operator.

The story of Jonah became a marriage of local resources, local employees, local service vendors and the broad international resources with new people and resources.

The Jonah Field has attracted EnCana to Wyoming because of the high-quality character of the people and natural resources here. For the future, the success will be built upon synergy of local and international capabilities. Wyoming folks built Jonah into a world-class resource, and were successful in attracting a world-class company to join the enterprise.

This is remarkable and it is typical of Wyoming business. We should be proud of it, support it and join in the work ahead.

EnCana is committed to continually improving the technical and business aspects of the Jonah Field. It is committed to respecting the values Wyoming people have, which represent such a unique quality of life. And EnCana is committed to being a good neighbor in every respect. This is good for Sublette County, good for Wyoming and good for America.

Stephen Reynolds is a consultant for agriculture and energy business in Wyoming, including EnCana.

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