One driller presses on in Piceance

Economy, regulations fail to shake Denver company

Falling natural gas prices and the decision of several major energy companies to draw down their drilling operations in northwest Colorado will not deter Vantage Energy from drilling the Roan Plateau over the next two years.

Mark Rothenberg, the Piceance Basin team leader for Vantage Energy, said the “short-term fluctuations” in natural gas prices and new regulations from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will not derail its “very long-term” plans for the gas-rich plateau in Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.

“A short-term fluctuation in gas prices is not going to stop us from pursuing that project,” Rothenberg said. “It may cause some subtle changes in what we do in 2009 or 2010, but it’s not going to change our impression of the Roan Plateau as being a tremendous resource.”

Vantage Energy, a Denver company, purchased 40,311 acres for $57.6 million in August during the Bureau of Land Management lease sale, including roughly 35,000 acres atop the Roan Plateau.

Rothenberg said the BLM’s criteria for developing the parcels are so restrictive about surface disturbance that any new state or federal regulations probably would not affect them.

The company’s decision to press on comes as a series of energy firms, including EnCana Oil & Gas, Bill Barrett Corp. and Berry Petroleum have trimmed back their drilling plans in northwest
Colorado’s Piceance Basin, citing falling natural gas prices and other regulatory factors.

The companies that purchased leases for federal land below the Roan Plateau’s rim, however, are not planning to immediately develop their parcels.

Stacey Crews, spokeswoman for Occidental Petroleum Corp., said everything is up in the air in light of the economy.

“With oil and gas prices and costs rapidly changing, Oxy’s plans for next year are a work in progress,” she said.

Donna Gray, a spokeswoman for Williams Energy, said the company has not moved forward at even the “drawing board” level with plans to develop its assets around the plateau.

“We see opportunity there, but it’s nothing that you can say is on the drawing board or cast in concrete,” she said.


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