Colorado: BLM asks comment on Gunnison draft EA

The US Bureau of Land Management’s Uncompahgre field office in Montrose, Colo., released a draft environmental assessment on a master development plan for a proposed natural gas exploration project in northwestern Gunnison County, Colo., north of the Paonia Reservoir State Park on Mar. 23.

BLM will accept comments through Apr. 24 on the proposed activity in the 19,645-acre Bull Mountain federal unit in the Piceance basin.

SG Interests Inc.’s proposal includes developing up to 146 gas wells (half producing shale gas and half producing coalbed methane), 4 water disposal wells, and associated infrastructure on federal and private mineral leases in the federally designated unit.

The Houston independent producer, which began leasing in 2000, owns and operates 11 wells on private land and 5 on federal land on 13 pads, along with 1 water disposal well. The operations occupy about 22 acres. The wells were developed at an average of two per year for the last 6 years.

“Instead of structuring the development of the federal leases as a series of individual actions as was the case with the initial 13 well pads, the BLM encourages the use of multiwell development plans to manage federal lease development more effectively,” said Barb Sharrow, the field office’s manager. “Additionally, the MDP under federal unitization allows for placement of wells within the unit in a logical fashion without regard to setbacks from committed lease lines in order to minimize road development, pipelines and other surface impacts.”

Every federal action proposed in the unit would still require site-specific analysis in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act before exploration or development can occur, Sharrow emphasized.

An approved MDP provides an environmental analysis in which subsequent drilling permit applications and NEPA efforts would be tiered. Sharrow added, “Approval is also subject to onsite examinations of each proposed well, pipeline and road location including current cultural and biological resource surveys.”

BLM would apply appropriate mitigation and best management practices to all permitted actions in accordance with federal and state oil and gas regulations and the Uncompahgre Basin Resource Management Plan, she indicated.

She said that while actual operations could change as conditions warrant, SG Interests plans to drill 27 wells/year until the resource is fully developed in just under 6 years. Once completed, the productive life of the CBM, shale gas, and water disposal wells is estimated to be 40 years, Sharrow said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com

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