The United States Bureau of Land Management's latest quarterly oil and gas federal mineral lease sale in Utah resulted in the leasing of more than 226,471 acres of public parcels.
Forty-three companies registered for a chance to compete for the 200 parcels containing more than 316,231 acres of public land.
During the August auction, 154 parcels were sold for oil and gas leasing. The sale netted more than $8 million, half of which will be disbursed to Utah.
Bids ranged from $2 to $475 per acre. The high bid for one parcel totaled $578,160 and was received from Landgroup of Salt Lake City for a 2,408 acre parcel in Carbon County.
Marion Energy Inc., of McKinney, Texas, submitted the highest per acre bid of $475 on a 280 acre parcel in Carbon County.
The remaining parcels that received no bids will be open for noncompetitive sale for the next two years beginning Aug. 16.
Before deciding to offer the public lands, BLM must determine if leasing of a given parcel is in conformance with the governing land use plan; is compliant with (among others) the National Historic Preservation Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act; and completes additional environmental reviews to consider new information or changed circumstances, explained the federal agency.
During the process, numerous parcels receive protective stipulations or restrictions and many others are deferred for further study and processing.
"Each nominated parcel is scrutinized to determine if leasing can be done without significant environmental impact," said Henri Bisson, Utah state BLM director. "In a typical oil and gas lease sale, about half of the parcels nominated by industry are not offered for lease because of these considerations."
The BLM also gave serious consideration to the memorandum decision and order by U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball filed on Aug. 2, case 2:04CV574 DAK, in offering parcels for August's oil and gas lease sale, pointed out the federal agency's director.
To allow for a more thorough review of the ramifications of the court's decision, the BLM deferred about 20,000 acres from the August sale, added the state director.
The deferred parcels are located in Price, Richfield and Moab field offices. The 16 leases which had been issued following the November 2003 sale which were the subject of the U.S. District Court ruling are being suspended, noted the federal agency official.
At the current time, no surface disturbing activities have occurred on the leases in question. None of the leases have applications for permits to drill.
"The BLM works with various groups, including local governments, grassroots citizens groups and other stakeholders to gather public comment and make decisions in land use planning efforts that set the state for these oil and gas lease sales," commented Bisson.
"It is vitally important to ensure that citizens of Utah are involved in the process to help decide what is best for our communities and our local environment," continued the state BLM director
In addition, prior to authorizing any surface disturbing activities on federal oil and gas lease, the bureau caries out further environmental analysis and determines the site-specific need for various types of impact limiting or mitigation measures.
To minimize impact on the federal public land, the bureau requires companies to comply with various practices.
The practices include requiring:
Drilling pads and access roads to be of the minimum size necessary to conduct safe operations.
Requiring revegetation of sites with native species, which controls soil erosion and helps curb the spread of weeds.
Strategic placement of above ground structures and equipment, with locations and colors that blend in with the landscape so as to reduce visual impacts.
Timing seasonal restrictions so that oil and gas activity does not adversely affect certain types of wildlife.
Complying with additional techniques such as burying of power transmission lines or pipelines under or adjacent to access roads to protect wildlife and minimize visual impacts.
Overall, less than 1 percent of the acreage managed by the BLM experiences actual surface disturbance from oil and gas activity, pointed out the federal agency's state director.
Oil and gas production in Utah contributes to meeting local and regional energy needs.
Last year, Utah produced 15.7 million barrels of crude oil and 303.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to heat approximately four million homes, indicated the state BLM director.
Utah consumed 51 percent of in state natural gas, making it a net exporter, concluded the state BLM director.