EnCana evaluates drilling in Pitkin
A company that operates about 900 natural gas wells in Garfield County is evaluating if it will poke an exploratory well into extreme western Pitkin County in 2005.EnCana Oil and Gas USA has approval from the U.S. Forest Service to drill the well in the old Wolf Creek gas field, an area that is about 12 miles southwest of Carbondale and accessed via a road that goes past Sunlight Mountain Resort.Aspen District Ranger Bill Westbrook said he gave EnCana a one-year permit to drill in October. If the gas company drills and finds prospects promising, it must apply for another permit to produce gas, Westbrook said.An EnCana spokeswoman said the company hasn’t determined yet if it will exercise that permit. “We are evaluating whether or not to drill an exploratory well,” said Florence Murphy, vice president of public and community relations for EnCana.She said she couldn’t discuss what factors are involved in that evaluation. “We, as a rule, don’t talk about drilling evaluations for competitive reasons,” Murphy said.The company employs 10 drilling rigs in the massive Mamm Creek Field south of Silt and Rifle. That field is part of the gas-rich Piceance Basin, which covers much of western Colorado. Geologists consider the Thompson Creek area outside Carbondale to be the eastern edge of that basin.Since it is operating equipment as close as 50 miles from the site being examined in Pitkin County, getting a drilling rig in place isn’t an issue, Murphy said.However, EnCana’s willingness to pull a drilling rig out of the high-producing Mamm Creek Field to a speculative site in Pitkin County could be an issue. Gas wells were drilled by a different company in the Wolf Creek area in the 1950s and the field produced from 1960 to 1972, according to Forest Service and EnCana records.After production ceased, the field was used for storage of natural gas. A producer piped gas in during summers and stored it there for use in the Roaring Fork Valley and elsewhere during winters.A former spokesman for EnCana explained that the company’s exploratory well would target a different sandstone formation than what was tapped in the 1950s. The sandstone targeted now isn’t as deep.EnCana indicated to Forest Service officials last year that if its first exploratory gas well showed promise, it wanted to drill as many as four more wells. Westbrook said no application is pending for other drilling.EnCana officials also have said in the past they would let Pitkin County know about its plan in advance of any drilling. County officials contend they have the right to review impacts off national forest lands, such as potential off-site water and air pollution and wear-and-tear on county roads leading to the drilling site.Debbie Quinn, assistant county manager, said no application from EnCana is currently active or under review.Murphy said EnCana’s internal evaluation of the Wolf Creek site will determine if there is a need to submit information to Pitkin County. She said the company has acquired other lands in Pitkin County that will eventually be evaluated.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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