Carbon commissioners review future development in county
The Carbon County commission conducted a special meeting on Tuesday to review newly formulated expansion plans for Phillips Petroleum gas well projects.
"The first thing I want to do is to thank Phillips for helping out the Carbon Emery Motorcycle Association on getting clearance to run races this weekend," said Commissioner Mike Milovich.
The commission chairman was referring to the race that is taking place near some of Phillips well and equipment sites. "This is a national event and probably will give Carbon County a lot of exposure."
That comment proceeded the beginning of an informational session which outlined what Phillips wants to do in the area, including expanding their operations closer to Helper and Kenilworth.
The presentation was conducted by Stephen de Albuquerque, the health, environment and safety supervisor for Phillips in the Rocky Mountain region.
"The original environmental impact study for River Gas approved 545 wells," said de Albuquerque. "B-ecause of the geology in the area we are working in, we have 148 more wells than we have drilled up to this time to go. But the problem is that the geology of the original area shows that there is no need to drill there."
In a history lesson on the field deAlbuquerque showed the situation on a map. By the end of this year the company will have a total of 494 wells in the Drunkards Wash area, with a total of 13 injection wells included.
Injection wells are used to pump water into the ground to help bring the gas up. These wells are much more expensive to drill, about $1.5 million each. The water they use for the injection system is water that was taken out of the other gas wells.
That means the company has to search for gas in other areas and will be moving their operations to the north and west. This means they will be drilling west toward the benches and north toward Helper and Kenilworth in the next three years.
The company anticipates 163 new wells coming from 87 well pads. That number of wells is accomplished from fewer pads by using directional well drilling, something that hasn't been used much in this area. A total of 87 percent of those new wells will be in Carbon County. The rest will be in Emery.
"The associated infrastructure that will be included in this well system will is extensive," said deAlbuquerque. "It will include one injection well, one gas fired compression and treating facility, similar to the one we already have and one high pressure gas gathering line."
After the main presentation, commissioners had some questions, comments and some warnings for the companies representatives that were present.
"Does this new area represent some greater environmental challenges for your company?" asked Commissioner Bill Krompel.
"Yes it will," responded de Albuquerque. "There are three areas where we will face some new things to deal with. First is that we will be drilling closer to peoples homes. Second, we will be also working near the old railroad grade from Helper to Kenilworth and we know that the county is planning a new trail system there. Finally, we will also be working in the Spring Canyon area, where we will not only have the residential problem but also the problem of the existing trail system that is already there."
"I can see some of the problems you will be facing," stated Milovich. "You will need to work closely with your neighbors in these projects. I think the dust and the noise could be your greatest problems. You need to talk with people and let them know what you are willing to do to mitigate these situations. The more work you do on this the easier it will be for you to do you business."
According to the company representatives, Phillips has been proud of its record in working with neighbors and, in fact, views the Carbon County operation as one of its best success stories.
"It's a showcase for us," said deAlbuquerque.
Krompel told the gathered group that he had received some good reports, including some recently from ranching personnel in the area concerning Phillips relationships with their neighbors.
"You also need to be sure as you are moving into these areas you look for alternative routes for your personnel and equipment to reach the sites," said Milovich. "If you are working in Spring Canyon you would want to travel through the Consumers area rather than take Bryner Street and up through Castle Gate subdivision. As for the Kenilworth area, over Wood Hill would be a better way than through Spring Glen."
Milovich also brought up the fact that, in many of the areas where the company is contemplating drilling, there is a much larger public presence than in areas where Phillips has been working.
"With all the ATV's and proximity of homes I think you should consider fencing off the entire pad rather than just the pond areas to protect your equipment," he told deAlbuquerque. "I am also concerned about the noise of those pumps."
But deAlbuquerque brought up the fact that in recent years some new pumps have been developed.
"With the new pumps we can actually build those in a building not much larger than a telephone booth to protect them," he stated. "Not only that they are quieter too."
It was also stated that the new pumps are less expensive initially. They, however, do not last as long as the horse head pumps presently in use all over the county.
The issue of local employment also came up at the meeting.
"I noticed that you may be using an outside company to do some of the evaluation," stated Commissioner Tom Matthews. "We have companies here that can do that. I would like to see them get some of the work. They care more about what is going on here because the live here."
Krompel also pointed out that the new data base for local skilled workers will soon be up and running and the company should encourage any contractors to look toward that information to help them hire local workers.
"We do try to hire locally as much as possible," said de Albuquerque. "But on some of these big projects, we have to hire bigger companies. But we do want to be part of the community because we will be here for a long time."