Driller will continue to stay clear of blast site
Noble Energy has agreed to extend a voluntary moratorium on seeking drilling permits within a half-mile of the Project Rulison underground nuclear blast site.
Also on Monday, the Bureau of Land Management said Noble is seeking approval of a plan to drill 79 wells in the Project Rulison area over two to three years. The wells would reach federal and privately owned minerals from five well pads on private land in the Cache and Cottonwood creek drainages.
Garfield County commissioners recently requested that energy companies extend a commitment made not to seek drilling permits in 2008 within a half-mile of the Project Rulison site.
All 79 wells in the plan Noble submitted to the BLM would be drilled between a half-mile and
3 miles away.
Noble, Williams Production and EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) have operations within 3 miles of the site. Representatives with Williams and EnCana say their drilling is on the edge of the 3-mile perimeter and a continued moratorium wouldn’t be an issue for them.
Some Noble operations have approached the half-mile mark.
Project Rulison involved a 1969 federal experiment to detonate a nuclear device to produce natural gas. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission requires companies to test for radioactive contamination for wells drilled within 3 miles of the site. It would require a hearing for applications to drill within a half-mile, but none have been submitted.
Noble says the extended moratorium will allow more time to collect and analyze testing data from wells. So far, the data shows no contamination from Project Rulison.
Noble reports that last year it drilled 21 wells within the 3-mile radius. It is planning this year to drill primarily from 1 to 3 miles away, with less activity within 1 mile.
Earlier this year, state oil and gas regulators said Noble may have failed to meet a requirement to perform high-accuracy wellbore surveys following drilling of four wells, to verify their underground distance from Project Rulison. Noble says that since then, the state has agreed no violation of the requirement occurred. State officials could not be reached immediately for comment.
The BLM is requesting that any comments on Noble’s Cache Creek plan be submitted by June 8.