Company will try horizontal drilling for gas in proposal for De Beque area

A drilling proposal near De Beque represents yet another effort by energy companies to explore for oil and gas in local geological formations that have been relatively untested up until now.

Black Hills Plateau Production LLC, a subsidiary of Black Hills Exploration and Production Inc., has proposed drilling up to 24 wells from 12 well pads over three years, mostly in Mesa County but also in Garfield County. The areas involved are northwest, south and southwest of De Beque.

The Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comments on the plan.

Black Hills operates about 75 wells in the area in the proposal. Some date back to 1978, but Black Hills has operated wells in the De Beque area since 2001.

“Black Hills perceives this area as an exploratory prospect due to recent advances in drilling technology and new geologic information that has provided Black Hills with new formations,” the company said in its proposal.

It plans to use horizontal drilling for its project, which involves drilling down into the targeted formation, then drilling in the formation sideways. Horizontal drilling has helped companies unlock oil and gas reserves in shale and other formations in several parts of the country, and it is being tried out to a limited degree locally, including by Encana Oil & Gas (USA).

Most Piceance Basin oil and gas production involves natural gas that is being tapped from sandstone in the Mesaverde formation, which companies drill into vertically, although they often reach the formation through directional drilling.

The BLM asks that comments on the Black Hills proposal be submitted by Feb. 13. They may be sent to the Grand Junction Field Office, 2815 H Road, Grand Junction, 81506, or to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The proposal may be found at

BLM spokesman David Boyd said it’s his understanding that Black Hills is targeting the Mancos shale formation. In an email, Doran Newlin, operations manager of Black Hills Exploration and Production, didn’t confirm that, but said the Mancos shale is present in the proposal area “and known to contain hydrocarbons.”

Delta Petroleum and Encana reported some early success in tapping natural gas locally in the Mancos shale, including in the Niobrara formation, a part of the Mancos that Encana has been specifically targeting. Newlin said Black Hills is looking for both oil and gas.

David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, said at least eight association members are “exploring new shale gas horizons on the West Slope,” and he expects many more to follow.

“We’re proud to have that type of innovation going on right in our backyard in Mesa County,” he said.


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