Shell Oil announces plan to frack Moffat County wells

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Shell Oil recently presented several graphics and videos about the life cycle of a well, hydraulic fracturing and the well-construction process. To view those graphics and videos, visit www.shell.us/naturalgas.

— Shell Oil will resort to hydraulic fracturing in an effort to boost production from its underperforming wells in Moffat County, a company spokesperson said Friday.

The acknowledgement from the energy giant confirms statements made last week by Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers during his State of the County address. Mathers told the audience at the Craig Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event that Shell would begin using the fracking technique because as many as seven of its 10 wells in Moffat County haven’t produced oil.

“We will be hydraulically fracturing several wells in Moffat County,” said Carolyn Tucker, a spokesperson for Shell Upstream Americas Unconventional. “During our drilling and completion activities over the past two years, we have not fractured any wells because we thought they would adequately flow on their own. Unfortunately, some wells have not performed as well as we would have liked.”

Tucker said she couldn’t comment specifically about how many of the company’s Moffat County wells have been productive.

Despite the slower-than-anticipated start, Tucker said Shell is moving forward with an aggressive schedule in Moffat County and plans to drill 20 to 25 new wells in 2013.

Some of those wells will be drilled from existing pads while others will be drilled at new locations, Tucker said.

Where Shell plans to begin drilling its new wells has not been determined, but according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s online database, Shell Western Exploration and Production has applied and been approved for 31 drilling permits in Moffat County dating back to January 2012.

Those permits include the Williams Fork (1), Herring Draw (4), Iles Mountain (1), Deal Gulch (9), North Castor Gulch (10), Hamilton (2), Dry Sage (3) and Searcy Gulch (1) areas.

Shell has no immediate plans to announce whether it will develop a field, Tucker said.

“The Sand Wash Niobrara project is still an exploration project for us.” Tucker said. “We continue to assess the reservoir, its characteristics and its ability to produce oil. We have made no determination regarding moving to a development phase.”

Tucker said there is little to report about activity across the border in Routt County.

“Our activities in Routt are scheduled for later in the year and therefore are still being formalized,” Tucker said. “We will be working in various parts of Moffat and west Routt counties with the objective of further defining the field.”

Shell has two approved drilling permit in Routt County for its Gnat Hill and Dawson Creek sites in western Routt.

Employing the hydraulic fracturing method of oil drilling runs contrary to Shell’s initial statements when it initially began to explore the viability of the Niobrara shale formation to produce shale oil in commercial volume.

Hydraulic fracturing is a technique in which a combination of pressurized water, sand and proprietary chemicals are injected into rock to create channels through which oil can be extracted.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 970-875-1794 or jmoylan@CraigDailyPress.com.

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