Volume 6, Number 36 - November 30, 2006
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Oil and gas resources restricted
On Tuesday, the Bureau of Land Management released a congressionally mandated scientific study of U.S. onshore federal oil and natural gas resources and limitations on their development.
The study was required by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and expands on an earlier report published in 2003 pursuant to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 2000, or EPCA. The 11 areas inventoried in this study include six new oil and gas basins in Alaska, the Rocky Mountain West and the East, in addition to the five basins studied in 2003.
The new inventoried area is estimated to contain 187 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 21 billion barrels of oil, which represents 76 percent of onshore federal oil and gas resources.
The Northern Alaska study area is largest in terms of Federal land area, as well as oil and gas resources. It is also highly restricted, largely because of the unavailability of the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Greater Green River Basin contains almost as much natural gas as Northern Alaska; about 76 percent of it is available with restrictions beyond standard lease terms.
Included in the earlier study was an area now expanded to include the Great Green River Basin, which extends from western Wyoming throughout central Wyoming and part of northcentral Colorado.
Within the 99 million acres inventoried, this study found that just three percent of onshore federal oil and 13 percent of onshore federal gas are accessible under standard lease terms, while 46 percent of onshore federal oil and 60 percent of onshore federal gas may be developed subject to additional restrictions, including no surface occupancy. The study found that in the inventory areas, 51 percent of the oil and 27 percent of the gas are presently closed to leasing.
“This is a more complete and accurate picture than our previous inventory,” said BLM Director Kathleen Clarke. “This kind of nationwide comparison will help us plan for domestic oil and gas development on public lands in a way that protects the environment. Secure and affordable domestic energy, and healthy natural landscapes, are important for the quality of life in this country.”
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 directed that the current study consider conditions of approval, which are restrictions attached to drilling permits (e.g., no drilling permitted during seasonal migration of sensitive species), and to which companies must adhere during lease development. The 2003 EPCA inventory only considered restrictions on the actual leases.
For southwestern Wyoming’s Greater Green River Basin:
• Approximately 30 percent (3.5 million acres) of the federal land is accessible under standard lease terms. Based on resource estimates, these lands contain 14 percent (335 million barrels) of the federal oil and 15 percent (9.4 trillion cubic feet) of the federal natural gas.
• Approximately 50 percent (5.7 million acres) of the federal land is accessible with restrictions on oil and gas operations beyond standard lease terms. Based on resource estimates, these lands contain 77 percent (1,828 MMbbls) of the federal oil and 76 percent (47.8 TCF) of the federal natural gas.
• Approximately 20 percent (2.2 million acres) of the federal land in the basin is not accessible. Based on resource estimates, these lands contain about 9 percent (213 MMbbls) of the federal oil and 9 percent (5.6 TCF) of the federal natural gas.
• Almost all of the undiscovered natural gas (97 percent) is expected to occur as continuous deposits.
• A relatively large portion of the federal land (43 percent of the surface area,) along with 44 percent of the oil and 43 percent of the natural gas, are under timing limitations of 3 to 9 months.
• The land ownership pattern is highly complex due a checkerboard pattern of ownership resulting from railroad land grants.
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