Northwest Colorado drilling permits on record pace

RIFLE — Drilling permits are being issued for northwest Colorado at an unprecedented rate this year, pacing the state as a whole to what apparently will be yet another new high for oil and gas development.

Statewide, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has approved 5,095 permits through Aug. 28, compared to a record 6,368 for all of last year. The state has posted consecutive record years starting with 2004, when it issued 2,917 permits.

So far this year, Garfield County alone accounts for 1,906 permits, or 37 percent of all those issued. The state is predicting 2,800 permits will be issued in the county for this year, compared to 2,550 last year. The county is at the center of a regional boom in natural gas development in what’s known as the Piceance Basin.

Another 1,416 permits have been issued this year for Weld County, and 314 for Yuma County. They are followed by Rio Blanco and Mesa counties, at 301 and 297 permits, respectively. The state expects those two counties to reach about 450 approved permits each by the end of the year.

“You can see the dominant role being played by this portion of the state,” Chris Canfield, the COGCC’s environmental protection specialist for its Northwest Region, said in a presentation at the Northwest Colorado Oil and Gas Forum this week in Rifle.

As of August, 74 of the 135 rigs in Colorado were drilling in Garfield County.

Many of those were working for Williams Production RMT, the leading natural gas producer in the county.

Williams spokesperson Donna Gray reported at this week’s forum that the company has 25 rigs operating in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, with most of them in Garfield County.

Williams is in the middle of a three-year program to drill 500 wells a year in the two counties. It has 2,608 active wells in those counties, producing 800 million cubic feet of natural gas per day, or enough to heat 2.8 million homes, Gray said.

EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) is operating 12 rigs in the Piceance Basin. Its 2,556 active wells there are producing 465 million cubic feet per day.

The statewide count of active wells has reached 35,975, up from 34,173 at the end of last year. Weld County has the most active wells, with 13,269. Garfield comes in second, with 4,921.


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