Quicksilver pursues 2nd well at Wolf Mountain near Hayden | SteamboatToday.com

Quicksilver pursues 2nd well at Wolf Mountain near Hayden

— Quicksilver Resources officials hope to take a two-phase approach to drilling their second well beginning late this month on Wolf Mountain about six miles northeast of Hayden.

Quicksilver already drilled one well on Wolf Mountain Ranch in 2011. The first well has yet to go into full production.

The second well would be drilled within a mile of the first. The new well ultimately could be drilled to a depth of 7,800 feet in the Niobrara Shale formation.

However, a first phase would be drilled to a depth of 1,200 feet using a 60-foot surface rig. Quicksilver expects that phase to begin by March 22, pending issuance of permits. The company plans to complete the first phase by March 31 but no later than April 4. After that date, the operation would shut down for the balance of the grouse mating and chick-rearing season.

That first phase of drilling is dependent on a one-time variance to grouse restrictions, which typically are observed beginning March 15 through July 30, according to a report by county staff planner Chris Brookshire.

Area Wildlife Officer Jim Haskins, of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, confirmed Wednesday that his office had approved of the variance and the two-phased drilling plan.

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"We call it a one-time variance because we don't want them to get the impression we will grant it every time they ask," Haskins said. "But the first reason we approved it is that the area (of the well pad) really isn't in critical grouse habitat. Quicksilver has been willing to live by the restrictions" even when that is the case.

Second, he said, Quicksilver has proven to be a willing partner on wildlife issues, and his agency is aware that Quicksilver needs to begin a second well on Wolf Mountain to meet the terms of its contract there.

Quicksilver acknowledged in its project description for the new well that the proposed pad site and access road are located within a conservation easement on Wolf Mountain Ranch that is held by The Nature Conservancy. The report goes on to acknowledge that Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Routt County Purchase of Development Rights fund contributed to funding for the easement.

"In recognizing the elevated level of public interest in this property, Quicksilver has undertaken numerous planning and mitigation measures in order to ensure that the conservation values of Wolf Mountain Ranch are not significantly impacted," the project description reads.

The first phase of the new well would use water-based fluids, and no fracking is involved, according to Brookshire's report. Surface casing also would be set and cemented in the first phase, Brookshire wrote. After the initial drilling, the rig would be removed from the site.

The final drilling operations are proposed to begin in August. A conventional rotary drill about 165 feet tall would complete the drilling process using oil-based fluids.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would be used during the well's second phase. Quicksilver indicates it could use different types of well-stimulation methods to realize the best result at the well. With that in mind, the company included in its report a blanket description of the various base fluids it eventually might end up using at the well, including a water-based fracture, gelled butane or propane, native oil, nitrogen/CO2 (potentially used with water or oil) and other yet-to-be-identified fracking technology methods.

Quicksilver proposes to use a closed loop drilling system to avoid the need for fluid waste pits at the new well pad.

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

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