Routt County to hold meeting about energy exploration
November 16, 2011
Steamboat Springs — An official with Quicksilver Resources said his company won't know until sometime next month whether its Wolf Mountain well will produce viable quantities of oil.
"The next few weeks will hold more information about our success on that well," Quicksilver's Steve Lindsey said Wednesday. Lindsey is Quicksilver's senior director of government and community affairs.
Quicksilver completed the last of several fracking procedures on the well in late October using gelled butane instead of the more typical water-based solution. Lindsey said he's certain that commuters traveling east on U.S. Highway 40, particularly near dusk or dawn, have spotted notable flaring operations going on at the well site on a southwest-facing hillside.
The flame visible now is the result of a portion of the gelled butane returning to the surface of the well. It's part of the post-fracking period known in the oil industry as the "flow-back." Lindsey said he has recently consulted with Routt County Planning Director Chad Phillips and Planner Chris Brookshire.
"It's a trade-off," Lindsey said. "Had we used water in the fracking, we wouldn't be seeing the flaring we're seeing now from the gelled butane, but we would have had the impact of heavily loaded water trucks on county roads. Our hope is that within a week, flaring from the gelled butane will be finished."
However, that doesn't mean the public won't observe any more flaring at the well site. Flow-back can be thought of as a three-part process, Lindsey said. It begins with the flow-back of fracking fluids, typically followed by some latent natural gas (which will also be flared off) and then, in the later stages, oil.
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In late October, Quicksilver officials working on the site were hopeful they'd know more about the well's future as a producer within two to four weeks.
"We have 60 years of expertise," Lindsey said, "but this is our first well in this region using this technique, and we have no baselines for this type of completion. We're monitoring volumes to see how the well is flaring back."
Members of the public will have a chance to talk about the visual impacts of flaring at well sites and anything else concerning oil and gas exploration during a wide-open discussion Thursday night with county planning staff and the Routt County Planning Commission.
Phillips said he will give a report on a recent review of the county's existing oil and gas regulations, but his first priority is to exchange ideas with the public.
"We're in listening mode," Phillips said. "We're going to sit back and hear from the public in brainstorming mode."
Expect to hear Phillips run though county regulations and discuss some conclusions he and his staff have reached about the applicability of those standards. For example, he has concluded that state law gives the county the right to regulate truck hauling associated with oil and gas through residential and commercial areas. But he thinks the regulations should be amended to make them more specific with regard to the energy industry.
On the other hand, Phillips has concluded that county regulations dealing with the lifespan of drilling and reclamation permits are pre-empted by regulations already imposed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com
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