Drilling activity still in a slump in Garfield County | AspenTimes.com

Drilling activity still in a slump in Garfield County

John ColsonPost Independent Aspen, CO Colorado

RIFLE, Colo. – The oil and gas industry slump continues in Garfield County, with low rig counts and little to report in terms of new activity, according to current data.As if in confirmation of this point, few of the region’s energy companies attended a meeting on Wednesday of the Northwest Colorado Oil & Gas Forum, a conference and public information session held quarterly at the Rifle campus of Colorado Mountain College.And those that did send representatives reported that activity in the Garfield County gas patch continues to be slow.But the numbers of Garfield County drilling permits issued by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission appear to have bottomed out and started back up again, according to a presentation by Kirby Wynn, Garfield County’s oil and gas liaison officer.He reported that the number of approvals for well permits in Garfield County rose to 147 in May, up from 28 in April and 89 in March.Permits for new well locations went from four in March to eight in May.All told, Kirby said, the annual tally of drilling permits in the county, which plummeted from a high of 2,888 permits issued in 2008 to 1,135 in 2011, has reached 562 as of June 5.Wynn reported that there were 16 drilling rigs operating in the county as of this week, with more than half operating south of Silt and Rifle. Last fall, there were 24 drilling rigs working in the county, he said.WPX, the drilling company that split from Williams Petroleum last year, has five rigs of its own operating in the Piceance Basin, according to spokeswoman Cheri Walter.She said the company, which is considered the busiest in Garfield County, plans to drill up to 200 wells in the area this year.Industry officials reported additional workover rigs in operation, which typically are used to clear out obstructions in wells that have been producing for a while, as well as a number of crews performing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking of wells around the county.Wynn said well-start totals for Garfield County, which reached more than 1,600 drilling projects commenced in 2008, have hovered in the 750 to 900 range over the last three years and currently stand at 209 for 2012.He indicated that this year’s statistics could be interpreted as matching last year’s pace and perhaps rising somewhat, depending on how the rest of the year goes.jcolson@postindependent.com