Drilling permit sought in Saddle Mountain in Routt County

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— The potential oil and gas boom in Routt County is poised to draw closer to Steamboat Springs.

Much of the impact of the anticipated burst of oil and gas exploration here will be felt in lightly populated areas beyond Hayden and 25 miles or more southwest of Steamboat Springs. There also will likely be wells drilled in South Routt County near Oak Creek.

But one of four drilling permits now pending before county government anticipates drilling in the midst of the Saddle Mountain Ranchettes rural subdivision on Routt County Road 179 near Milner. The energy company, Quicksilver Resources, of Fort Worth, Texas, estimates the drill pad is about eight miles southwest of Steamboat.

Lee McShane Cox, who owns the surface rights to her 35-acre parcel, said she knew when she bought the land as an investment in 2009 that the subsurface mineral rights were detached, but she dismissed the possibility of an oil well, never imagining it would happen so soon.

Cox said representatives of Quicksilver Resources have been easy to deal with. When she asked for some considerations to mitigate the impact on her neighbors, they said “Sure.” But that doesn’t mean she’s happy about the overall situation, Cox said.

Photographs and maps on file in the Routt County Planning Department show that the Cox number 32-23 drill pad would sit in the midst of a thick hay field on the broad, flat top of a hill overlooking Trout Creek.

Drill sites near airport

The Routt County Board of Commissioners could vote at 2 p.m. this afternoon on the fate of a different well, Shell Oil’s Dawson Creek project planned to be drilled on State Trust Land about two miles south of Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Shell Western Exploration and Production LP would like to drill as deep as 10,285 feet there in fall to determine whether there is oil and gas nearly two miles below the surface in the Niobrara shale.

The Routt County Planning Commission voted unanimously in August to recommend approval of a special use permit for the well.

Shell also is one of two companies seeking permits to drill southwest of Hayden on C.R. 65. Shell wants to drill on land owned by Halbert R. Tuttle, of Craig, at Gnat Hill. The State Land Board owns the subsurface rights.

Shell would like to begin construction of the well pad there as soon as Oct. 6 and begin a four-week drilling period on about Oct. 20.

“No hydraulic fracking or stimulation of the production zone will occur,” Shell officials wrote in their permit application.

There are seven other property owners within a mile of the well pad site.

The other applicant on C.R. 65 was submitted by True Oil LLC, of Casper, Wyo., which intends to drill the Breeze Unit well on land where Kurt and Yvonne Frentress own the surface and subsurface mineral rights. The well would be drilled to a depth of 8,310 feet, but the actual length of the angled bore would be more than 10,000 feet.

True Oil would like to begin drilling by Oct. 1 and hopes to finish by Oct. 22. Company officials wrote in their application that “no more than 24 crew members would be on the drilling site at any given time,” and they intend to drill 24 hours a day, seven days a week for as many as 35 days.

They expect to bring in six modular trailers to serve as offices and employee housing.

Milner drilling waits

The permit applications from Quicksilver Resources and True Oil and the newest application from Shell Oil have just been processed by county planner Chris Brookshire. Public votes have yet to be scheduled.

Documents submitted by Quicksilver Resources indicate that the company doesn’t intend to drill on Cox’s property until Feb. 12, 2012, with plans to conclude that process by March 12.

Documents submitted to the county by Quicksilver show that six water wells are located within a 1,000-foot radius of the proposed well pad location.

Cox, who had no control over Quicksilver’s decision to explore for oil and gas beneath her property, said she wants her neighbors to know that her surface rights agreement with the energy company requires it to test nearby wells for contamination before and during drilling operations.

County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said last week that county regulations also require baseline water quality tests in water wells by a third-party prior to drilling new oil and gas wells, as well as during drilling and afterwards.

Among the nearby property owners are Gregory Smith, Ken and Barbara Porteus, Sam Stover, Steve and Rebecca Hilley, Andrew J. George, Stephen and Shelly Riley, Tami McKenzie and Troy Strickland, and Bernd Metzger and Sharon Walisky.

To reach Tom Ross, call (970) 871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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