Utah's petroleum industry logged one of its busiest years in 2001.
According to the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, the govenment agency approved an all-time high of 880 applications to drill at sites across the state. The number represents a 31 percent increase compared to 2000's 673 permits.
The majority of the applications were for wells in the Uinta Basin and the east-central coalbed gas production area, including Carbon and Emery counties. The state agency authorized 709 permits in the Uinta Basin and approved 134 applications in the east-central area.
Two regions receiving less attention were the Paradox Basin and the Thrust Belt area. The division granted 17 applications for each area.
Overall, applications for permits were approved for drilling in 14 of Utah's 29 counties. For the period beginning in 1980 and ending in 2001, the number of approved applications ranged from a high of 880 in 2001 to a low of 97 in 1989, according to DOGM data. The average number of permits granted by the state agency during the last five years registered at 615.
Reviewing the number of sites where drilling started indicates that 2001 was the busiest year on record with a total of 617 wells. Drilling at the sites resulted in 580 wells completed or abandoned. The activity represents a 30 percent increase compared to the 440 wells drilled in 2000.
The number of drilling operations completed in 2001 included 399 new wells within existing fields, 163extending the boundaries of fields and 18 wildcat wells.
A closer evaluation of the finished 580 operations indicates that 444 were completed as gas wells, 111 were completed as oil wells and 25 sites were plugged then abandoned, according to the Utah Geological Survey.
Two reasons for the high ratio of gas to oil wells were the rapid rise in the spot gas prices and the recent rapid development of coalbed-gas resources in east-central Utah.
However, in every year since 1997, completions of gas wells have exceeded oil operations, pointed the Utah Geological Survey.
The coalbed-gas area encompassing the Castle Gate, Helper, Brunkards Wash and Buzzard Bench fields was the second highest ranked province in the state for drilling activity.
Exploration for coalbed gas in 2001 resulted in 146 new wells, bringing the total number of producing operations to 490.
The majority of well completions were in the Drunkards Wash field, where 110 were developed.
The Helper field followed with 15 wells, Castle Gate with seven and Buzzard Bench with four wells. Ten other wells were located in undesignated areas nearby.
The Uinta Basin was the most active petroleum province in the state with 453 well completions including 327 gas wells and 126 oil wells.
The four most active fields were Natural Buttes with 160 completions, all of which were gas. Wonsits Valley had 88 completions, 79 gas and nine oil. Monument Butte had 42 completions all of which were oil, while Red Wash had 13 oil completions. Twenty-three gas wells and 18 oil wells were completed in undesignated areas near existing fields, and 12 wells were completed as wildcats, all of which were gas.
Drilling began on seven new wells in the Thrust Belt province, and one prolific gas well was completed in the southern part of Wyoming's Yellow Creek field, which trends southwest of Evanston, Wyoming and is partly located in Utah.
This particular well was actually a redrill of a well originally completed in 1997, and while the site's surface facilities are located in Utah, the lower, producing interval of the well is located in Wyoming.
Wildcat exploration drilling in Utah was at an all-time low in 2001. Eighteen wildcat wells, all of which are gas, were attempted in 2001, most of which were successful.
The wildcat wells were located in the Uinta Basin with 12 wells, near the coalbed-gas area with four, and in the Thrust Belt area were two wells.
Of the 18 wildcat wells, six were completed as shut-in gas wells, four in the coalbed-gas area and two in the Uinta Basin.
Seven were completed as producing gas wells, six in the Uinta Basin and one in the Thrust Belt area; and five wells were plugged and abandoned, four in the Uinta Basin and one in the Thrust Belt area.
The impetus for the high level of petroleum-industry activity in 2001 was the rapid rise in oil and gas prices, which began in mid 1999 and then fell in early 2001, according to the state agency.
Carbon County residents may access additional statistical and individual well data by visiting the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining's website at http://dogm.nr.state.ut.us/oilgas.