Search for gas yields oil instead

Oil is trickling into a southeast Mesa County well that was drilled to explore the potential of the region below Grand Mesa for natural gas.

The well, drilled east of Whitewater by Fram Operating LLC, hit oil in June and has produced about 6,000 barrels so far, said Dave Cook, manager of the project.

Another company, Encana, struck liquids in the Niobrara formation and mancos shale that it is drilling farther north in Mesa County, nearer the Bookcliffs, spokesman Doug Hock said.

Earlier this year, drillers in Weld County set off a Front Range land rush of sorts after finding significant quantities of oil in the Niobrara formation beneath Weld County.

Previous drilling in the region between Whitewater and Delta that Fram now is exploring turned up small amounts of oil, so Fram’s find in the Dakota formation near Whitewater was unsurprising in that respect.

“Every time we drill, we hit something different,” Cook said, noting the company also is looking into the Niobrara and mancos formations.

Any decision as to whether Fram will pursue commercial natural gas production from the land it’s exploring has yet to be made, Cook said.

Fram still has two wells to drill in its exploratory program, Cook said.

“I wish I could say it isn’t still exploratory,” he said.

Fram’s oil discovery “is proof positive” of the need for more development of domestic resources, said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

The Interior Department “must provide access to public lands today for the technological possibilities, breakthroughs and innovations of tomorrow,” Ludlam said,

Fram is trucking the oil it collects from its well to a refinery in Utah, Cook said.



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