From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 27 - September 29, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Gearing up for winter drilling

by Cat Urbigkit

The Bureau of Land Management has authorized Anschutz Pinedale Corporation, Shell Exploration and Production Company and Ultra Resources Inc. to conduct winter drilling operations on multiple well pads on the Mesa as part of a “drilling demonstration project.”

All three well pads were selected in consultation with the BLM and Wyoming Game and Fish Department and are located entirely within crucial winter range for either pronghorn antelope or mule deer and within breeding and nesting habitat for sage grouse.

This project will demonstrate the ability of three operators to work cooperatively to jointly plan and employ infrastructure and implement new methods and technologies specifically by using consolidated drilling pads on which multiple wells will be drilled simultaneously.

The Anschutz well pad will have up to nine wells drilled, using two drilling rigs operating simultaneously. The Shell pad would also use two rigs drilling at the same time to drill up to 20 wells from the single pad. The Ultra pad would provide for up to 15 wells by two drilling rigs working simultaneously.

The pads will be prepared and all six drilling rigs will be moved on site prior to the Nov. 15 deadline for crucial big game winter restrictions, eliminating traffic associated with rig movements. Although the BLM has exempted the demonstration project from the winter stipulations, the companies have committed to stockpiling needed supplies onsite prior to Nov. 15 to reduce winter traffic.

The companies have agreed to use an employee bus system to transport rig crews to and from the drilling rigs, with one bus accessing each pad. Two buses would operate out of Marbleton and one from Boulder, eliminating more than 500 weekly round trips without busing.

The companies will also provide an access station in a small trailer off the North Anticline Road (Anticline Crest Road) to control access.

The BLM issued an environmental assessment for the drilling demonstration project. The EA reported that the Sublette Mule Deer Study indicates that continued activities throughout the winter by trucks hauling condensate and produced water and other well maintenance activities “are responsible for a significant decrease in the population wintering on the Mesa.”

“The function of that crucial winter range ... has been diminished,” the EA reported, and that impact is expected to continue with the recently approved demonstration project.

In contrast, evidence indicates that antelope migrating to and wintering on the Pinedale Anticline area “have not been adversely affected by natural gas developments so far,” according to the EA.

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