Computer sees future of drilling |

Computer sees future of drilling

Heidi Rice

A new computer-generated, three-dimensional “flyover” video simulation of potential oil and gas drilling activity on top of the Roan Plateau west of Eagle County was unveiled recently in the town of Rifle City Council.The less-than-six-minute video was produced by The Wilderness Society’s Center for Landscape Analysis in Seattle. It shows what the top and sides of the plateau might look with different numbers of wells.”With this technology, we believe it can be used effectively by federal agencies and citizens to project how things would really be,” said Steve Smith of Glenwood Springs, assistant regional director for the Wilderness Society, an environmental group. With red dots marking potential well pads and red lines to indicate roads, the video simulates flights over three different Roan Plateaus. The first image shows the existing roads and well pads on the top of the plateau along with potential new roads and well pads.The second sequence is a simulation of what the top of the plateau would look like wells every 160 acres. The third is a depiction of wells every 40-acres.A coalition of environmental groups – including The Wilderness Society, the Colorado Mountain Club and the Colorado Environmental Coalition – have formed a group called “Save Roan Plateau” that is advocating keeping oil and gas activity off the top and sides of the Roan Plateau. They say such activity would “significantly fragment habitat, disrupt big game hunting, threaten water quality and spoil recreation opportunities.”The group is also concerned that oil and gas leases on the top and cliffs of the plateau would eventually lead to high-density gas fields.”There just is no density of drilling that will not disrupt and damage the wildlife, scenery and recreation that so many people enjoy on the plateau,” Smith said. “This video shows that we really must concentrate gas production below the cliffs where roads, pipelines, power and easier access to the gas itself already exists.”Smith said drilling activity should continue around the base where it currently exists and that future technology will allow the natural gas reserves to be tapped without drilling on the top.Oil and gas industry officials said the Roan Plateau gas reserves can be responsibly developed on top, through agreements that would protect habitat.They say the plateau’s resources can’t be adequately tapped without drilling on top, and that the area is too important a source of energy for the nation to impose widespread drilling limits on it. The plateau is said to have an estimated 5 trillion cubic feet of gas beneath it, which would be worth $25 billion based on recent prices.

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