Garfield County heads into 2019 with 5 drilling rigs in operation | VailDaily.com

Garfield County heads into 2019 with 5 drilling rigs in operation

Alex Zorn
Post Independent

A natural gas facility run by Ursa within the Battlement Mesa community in western Garfield County, with homes visible in the near distance. Residents of the community, built to house workers during the oil shale boom of the late 1970s and early '80s, have been among those pushing for greater setbacks between such facilities and homes, schools and other buildings.

With five active drilling rigs currently operating in Garfield County, the final Northwest Oil and Gas Forum of 2018 included an update from some local operators Thursday, Dec. 6.

The forum, held at Colorado Mountain College's Rifle campus, also featured introductions of some new faces who join regional organizations that represent various interests on the Western Slope.

New Northwest Region Energy Liaison for Colorado Parks and Wildlife Taylor Elm said he hopes the bridge the gap between wildlife experts and their concerns, and the oil and gas industry.

He also gave an update on the 2018 hunting season, stating that there was no real trend in terms of the numbers as they were inconsistent from area to area. Overall, the number of licenses sold this year was solid, he said.

New West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association representative Eric Carlson also introduced himself to the community at the Thursday forum, expressing his excitement to join the oil and natural gas trade association that serves the region.

After only 30 days on the job, he said he's impressed by the collaboration he's seen on the Western Slope between local governments, citizen groups and the industry.

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"I will try to work through the most contentious issues on a case-by-case basis," he said.

He added that he hopes to improve communications and focus on what can be accomplished.

Nita Smith, director of Community Counts, also spoke. She said membership in the organization rose slightly to 74 members in 2018.

The nonprofit organization provides information regarding the local oil and gas industry to its local government and industry members, and disseminates news regarding road closures, prescribed burns, events in the area and tries to the create a dialogue between the industry and local communities.

Smith said Garfield County started with six new rigs operating in the county in 2018, but has since dropped to five. Statewide, there are currently 33 rigs in operation, according to Smith.

Less Drilling

Cole Walton, with Caerus Oil and Gas, said the company added its third rig in Garfield County at the beginning of the year. He said the company will have 138 new wells completed by the end of the year. Caerus plans to continue a similar three-rig count in 2019.

Ursa Operating Co.'s John Doose said complaints were down in 2018, as the company is not moving as much water in and out of the Battlement Mesa community where it began drilling operations last year.

Garfield County commissioners approved an injection well at one of Ursa's sites in the Battlement Mesa housing area at the end of 2017 in order for the well sites to better dispose of produced water.

Doose said the company's B Pad and B&V Pad have started interim reclamation projects, as more and more equipment will be scaled back from both locations.

"You will see less activity moving forward," he added.

Kirby Wynn, oil and gas liaison for Garfield County, added that nuisance complaints were down at Ursa's operations in 2018, and that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will be discussing school setback regulations at a meeting in Denver on Dec. 18.

He and other officials will likely attend the COGCC meeting to represent Garfield County. The next Northwest Oil and Gas Energy Forum will be at the same location at CMC-Rifle on April 4.

Reporter Alex Zprn can be reached at azorn@citizentelegram.com.