EnCana plans 162 gas wells for BLM lands near Rifle | AspenTimes.com

EnCana plans 162 gas wells for BLM lands near Rifle

Dennis WebbSpecial to The Aspen Times

EnCana Oil & Gas USA is proposing to drill 162 wells on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property in the Rifle and DeBeque areas.The BLM is seeking public comments before completing environmental reviews on two geographic area plans submitted by EnCana, a leading natural gas developer in Garfield County.EnCana’s Gant Gulch proposal involves drilling 97 wells about 15 miles south of Rifle, and the Orchard Unit project would result in 65 wells being drilled about seven miles east of DeBeque.The Gant Gulch project entails about 2,646 acres of public lands, and 80 acres of private land with leased federal minerals below them. The area is bounded by West Mamm Creek on the north, Gant Gulch on the west, and Middle Mamm Creek on the south and east. Drilling would begin this summer and continue for two to three years.The Orchard Mesa unit entails about 4,160 acres of public lands and 1,160 acres of private land with leased federal minerals. The area is bounded by the Colorado River on the north, the White River National Forest on the southeast, Smith Gulch on the southwest and Wallace Creek on the east. Drilling would start this summer and continue for two years.The Gant Gulch area runs from about 6,800 to 8,100 feet in elevation, while the Orchard Mesa elevations range from roughly 5,200 to 6,400 feet, said Jim Byers, a natural resource specialist with the BLM’s Glenwood Springs office.The Gant Gulch wells would be drilled from one existing pad and 17 new ones. At Orchard Mesa, wells would be drilled from seven existing pads and seven new ones.Byers said new roads would be built for both the Gant Gulch and Orchard Unit projects. Garfield County roads 315 and 319 provide nearby public access to Gant Gulch, but there is no public road access to the Gant Gulch area. However, surrounding ranches offer opportunities for reaching the area, Byers said.”We plan to work with the adjacent landowners to kind of finalize the road plans. There’s a number of different options.”Access to Orchard Mesa is via Mesa County roads and private lands. Existing roads within the project area access livestock grazing allotments but need to be improved for drilling to take place, Byers said.Road plans will be one of the issues the BLM looks at as it conducts the environmental assessments. It also will consider EnCana’s proposed drilling plans and pad locations.The BLM also has begun consulting with the Colorado Division of Wildlife about potential impacts from drilling. It sometimes has placed wintertime restrictions on area drilling projects to protect crucial big-game habitat. Byers said the BLM also will be looking at the results of surveys of raptors.”Those kinds of things always play a factor in the final location of roads and pads,” he said.Byers said he expects to hear from environmental groups about the projects as well.Starting in 1999, the BLM began asking oil and gas developers to submit two- to three-year geographic area drilling plans, so the BLM can analyze cumulative impacts.”With all the [drilling] activity going on, we’re working on quite a few of them,” he said.

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