In the old days after the long, cold winter it was calf branding and neutering, and sheep shearing that brought the locals together for food and fun. These days in Gasland it’s the annual operator’s meeting – and for Silt that’s Ursa. Sort of like prom night for O&G geeks like me.
Our hosts Don Simpson (VP Business Development) and Jeff Powers (Landman-Rifle office) went to all the trouble of putting on a scrumptious supper spread that included sandwiches, bourbon soaked meatballs, fresh fruit, and the infamous warm spinach artichoke dip which we inhaled with glee. I didn’t actually count heads but there were maybe 2 dozen people. A small turnout when you consider how Antero used to pack the firehouse. I guess that means royalties must be paid out on time. So everybody’s happy.What’s up with drilling?
Ursa drilled 20 wells in 2013 and completed (fracked) 13.
The well pad south of Coal Ridge High – the one yall are curious about — is the Frei A pad [see photos below]. And yes, it belongs to Ursa. It’s the most visible pad, especially with the lights at night. They are currently drilling at that pad.
In 2014, Ursa continues drilling south of Silt, including an area they call Castle Springs (5 miles SE) which sounds like East Divide Creek to me. They are also drilling in Battlement Mesa.
They have a total of 47 wells permitted for drilling this year, plus workovers on six existing wells. A workover is a re-frack of an existing well. They are in the process of permitting for 2015 drilling operations. One of those permits is for a Niobrara well, which is a horizontal well and requires a larger rig than the one they have.
Here are the drilling plans for this year according to each area and well pad. Refer to the map above for well pad locations in the Silt area.
South of Silt
Frei A: 6 wells
McLin A: 5 wells
McLin B: 7 wells
Valley Farms J: 2 wells
Castle Springs: 4 wells
Tentative: Another 6 wells on Frei A pad
Speakman: 4 wells
Monument Ridge: 7 wells
Tentative: Another 6+ wells on the Speakman pad
What’s this ugly monstrosity?It’s called a sound wall. Ursa constructed one at the Monument Ridge well pad in Battlement Mesa and another one at the Frei A pad (above). It’s not pretty but the idea is to muffle sound at the well pad so as to disturb the neighbors less. The key is whether it works. So I’m curious. If you live near Frei A pad or Monument Ridge pad, please let us know if you think the sound wall reduces noise.
According to Jeff Powers, “The sound wall is made of recycled material. We will leave it up as long as we are drilling and completing the wells. Ursa’s plan is to leave it up until all the wells on that location are drilled and completed. At that point we will remove the wall.”
Here’s a longer view which I shot today.
Ursa has contributed to the funding of this Garfield County study and is a participant, along with several other operators. CSU researchers have been and are monitoring air quality and emissions at various well pads during all phases from drilling to completion. One of Ursa’s well pads was monitored last year and two will be monitored this year – the McLin B and C pads.
However I’m not sure what difference it makes if the researchers don’t simultaneously study how those emissions impact the health of the local human population, and they are not.
Which brings me to the FLIR camera
FLIR is the brand name of an infrared camera that reveals fugitive emissions from leaks and seeps as a thermal image. Ursa has one FLIR camera which they have been using for random inspections at the various well pads, and they will now employ for the monthly inspections required by the new air quality regulations.
Green and lean
Ursa now uses green completions at 100% of their wells. Green completions (also called reduced emission completions, or RECs), minimize the release of methane and VOCs and maximize recovery of natural gas. Plus the EPA will require green completions on all wells as of January 1, 2015. An Environmental Defense Fund study last year found that early phase-in results show green completions yield the desired effect of reducing emissions.
Ursa also claims they recycle 50% of the water used in completions (fracking), meaning instead of fresh water they re-use frackwater to frack the wells.
Ursa has two injection wells located in Valley Farms south of Silt. In December they drilled a new injection well in Battlement Mesa and it will be put into use this summer. Simpson said there’s quite an extensive permitting process to drill a new injection well.
Ursa’s Piceance field office in Rifle employs 12 team members including 4 pumper positions. The pumpers used to be hired as subcontractors (as described in Dr. Theo Colborn’s recent article) but Ursa has made them full-fledged employees instead.
Ursa has come a long way from the new kids in the gas patch a year ago. Moving forward with the use of the infrared camera, the construction of sound walls, and going with green completions ahead of the EPA deadline show people they don’t just talk about being good neighbors, they are listening to people and making a commitment to lessen the impacts of drilling close to residential areas. While they make these efforts to improve community relations I can’t help but think the up front beneficiaries are the workers. Reducing emissions at the well pad benefits workers first and foremost.
A funny story (or at least I think it’s funny — but I could be crazy)
The subject of flaring came up at the meeting. Don Simpson was asked if Ursa would be flaring the wells on Silt Mesa again. He said next year they would flare again. I asked why they couldn’t capture instead of flare and he said they don’t have the capability, which probably means it’s too expensive.
Anyway it reminded me of the Friday afternoon session (2/21/14) at the air quality hearings. In his testimony, GarCo O&G liaison Kirby Wynn said they urge operators to avoid flaring whenever possible. “I don’t know why. It just drives people crazy,” he said.
About an hour later, TEDEX’s Carol Kwiatkowski explained why. She testified that emissions from flaring contain neurotoxins like hydrogen sulfide and toluene.
I laughed out loud (luckily I was watching the livestream). Cause and effect. Funny how that works. Flaring literally drives us crazy.
Just sayin …