Energy companies idle while gas prices low

RIFLE — Energy companies generally are in a holding pattern with their northwestern Colorado drilling activity, or lack thereof, as natural gas prices continue to remain low, according to companies represented this week at the quarterly Northwest Colorado Oil & Gas Forum in Rifle.

“It all will be dependent on the gas prices … but currently it’s looking pretty slim for us,” said Russ Truby, a drilling superintendent with Marathon Oil.

Locally, Marathon is running one drilling rig north of Parachute, and it probably will continue to have only one rig operating next year, he said.

Laramie Energy II is continuing to operate one rig and is about to move it to a new area location, Wayne Bankert of Laramie said. He said he knows of no plans beyond that, although things could change any day.

These companies are more active than some that have suspended area drilling altogether since natural gas prices plummeted last year. An OXY USA WTP LP representative said there are “no real plans” to put any rigs in operation locally any time soon.

Michael DeBerry of Chevron said the company expects to finish up completion work on some existing wells by November and has no more plans for completion operations after that.

“We’re not planning on doing any drilling for some time either,” he said.

Instead, Chevron has been accelerating reclamation work at some of its gas development sites because it won’t be redisturbing those sites, DeBerry said.

Meanwhile, the two biggest gas producers in Garfield County continue to remain relatively busy. Williams Production RMT has eight rigs operating locally and is looking to probably add one more by the end of the year, Williams spokeswoman Donna Gray said.

Dave Grisso of EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) said EnCana has four rigs running in the Piceance Basin. The company’s 2010 drilling program remains under development and probably won’t be released until late December, he said.

Energy companies with bigger local operations benefit from extensive infrastructure investments and other economies of scale that help lower their operational expenses and offset the low price of gas.


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