One matter discussed at the regular Carbon County Commission meeting last week was deep gas well exploration. The county is frequently apprised of exploration efforts, but most of the projects involve shallow gas development.
"The project we are planning to use seismic surveys on is in the Nine Mile Canyon area," said Dan Sullivan of Sullivan Natural Resources. "That area includes Prickly Pear, Jack and Harmon canyons."
According to Sullivan, the area was surveyed for shallow natural gas years ago and there are working wells there to prove it.
But he explained that deep wells are more risky to drill and need detailed seismic studies to make the operations successful.
"I look at it this way," explained Sullivan. "Using seismic studies is mitigation. By using the techniques we use, we not only save the company money by not having them drill so many dry holes, but we also keep the surface disturbance down because wells are only drilled where there is a high probability of gas occurring."
Seismic studies are done by measuring return vibrations from underground geologic structures. The vibrations can be created in a number of ways, including using explosives and vibration vehicles.
Sullivan used a computer slide show to demonstrate the techniques the Bill Barrett Corporation would use for the development project.
The techniques included using vibroseis vehicles which vibrate the ground, buggy drills for places where small explosive charges are placed and helicopters to bring in drilling rigs to areas that are unaccessible by vehicle.
Sullivan pointed out that the companies incorporate mitigation for all types of resources from historic and cultural to water resources.
Sullivan also presented a number of slides with graphs about the time it takes to get permitted to do seismic studies on federal lands, active rigs in the United States and the declining U.S. internal gas production.
One slide depicted how, in most of the nation, gas fields are on the decline and little deep gas remains, even on government land.
The slide also showed production in Utah on private versus government land.
The graph indicated that federal land production is low compared to private property. The situation means that exploration and development has only scratched the surface considering the resources available in Utah.
Commissioners were interested too in the possible economic impacts of this particular project. Sullivan projected even with a conservative success rate on wells, between the wages, local money spent and royalties the area could benefit to the tune of $40 million over the next 25 years.
But there were some comments, particularly about access.
"We had an earlier meeting about the access through Nine Mile Canyon," stated Commissioner Bill Krompel. "It will be important to suppress the dust that is on that road. I think with this project we can look to go for some Community Impact Board (CIB) funds to help us work on that road; maybe a joint effort between us, the Bureau of Land Management and others.The road is and will be impacted by energy, tourism, mining concerns, and logging."
Krompel went on to explain the options for the canyon. Barrett Company has offered to use magnesium chloride on the road for dust suppression, but he felt a longer term solution would be money better spent. He also said he had spoken with Ray Hanson, the county road supervisor, about he possibility of graveling the road. But Hanson had pointed out that it is a 50 mile haul for gravel to the canyon from present pits.
"We may have to look at some in-canyon pits for such a project," he told everyone.
Commission Chair Mike Milovich pointed out that any money from the CIB would have to be asked for under special consideration since it would have to be done quickly to meet the possible exploration and development schedule Barrett Corporation is hoping for.
"While this presentation was just for your information and to ask for your support, the company is ready to go as soon as all approvals are in place," concluded Sullivan. "We hope that will be late this summer or early in the fall."