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60 wells possible in Pitkin

If a company’s search for natural gas southwest of Carbondale proves fruitful next year it may develop up to 60 wells on public land in Pitkin County, according to the U.S. Forest Service.The federal agency’s assessment is the first concrete example of how the gas boom that has affected Garfield County and other parts of the West Slope could spill into Pitkin County.EnCana Oil and Gas USA has applied to drill an exploratory gas well about 12 miles southwest of Carbondale. The company is contemplating three other exploratory wells in the area to gauge potential gas reserves.According to a Forest Service document assessing natural gas development in the White River National Forest, EnCana indicated it would “likely” pursue “full field development” if the exploratory wells in Pitkin County are productive.The Forest Service is currently reviewing EnCana’s application to drill the exploratory well. Approval could be granted in about a month, said Bill Westbrook, head ranger of the Aspen and Sopris districts.EnCana initially wanted to drill that exploratory well in the Wolf Creek area this fall. However, EnCana’s review of its business plan indicated it probably wouldn’t get a chance to drill that well before the snow flies this year, according to company spokesman Walter Lowery. The Wolf Creek well will probably have to wait until 2005, he said.As far as determining how many wells could eventually be drilled, it’s all conjecture right now, Lowery said. Nothing will be determined until results are obtained next year from the exploratory well.The 60 wells cited in the Forest Service document are the company’s estimate of the amount of activity in a fully developed field, Lowery said. At this point, the level of future activity, if any, at Wolf Creek is uncertain, he said.The Wolf Creek area is in extreme western Pitkin County. EnCana is sniffing around an old gas field that played out 32 years ago. The Wolf Creek Gas Field was up and running from 1960 to 1972, when approximately eight wells were drilled 6,000 feet below the surface. Lowery said the new exploratory drilling would tap a formation that isn’t as deep, in the 4,000-foot range.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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