The testimony that fell on deaf ears

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Guest post by Bob Arrington*

On December 16, I testified at the public hearing on Ursa’s special use permits to drill 53 wells from 2 well pads plus 2.5 miles of pipeline inside the Battlement Mesa PUD. During my testimony before the Garfield County Commissioners, I gave a PowerPoint presentation (above) in which I put forward a plan that showed it was feasible and doable to drill the minerals under Battlement Mesa from existing pads outside the Battlement PUD. Ursa steadfastly said it couldn’t be done because 45 degrees was a maximum inclination for directional reach. From a quick search of COGCC records, I showed that WPX had drilled up to 62 degrees inclination in the same formations, geology, and situations facing Ursa.

WPX used another technique that Ursa denied itself. WPX used 50° and TOG (top-of-gas) was 4162’, but they did not go “vertical” at TOG, they kept building to vertical for about 900’ within a TOG elliptical target zone of 50′ x 100.’ So they were still building toward a vertical plunge through the TOG from their directional reach as they went through the “lenses” in the Williams Fork. This delivered hundreds of feet, up to a mile on setback reach. The real target was the 10-acre spacing of the coal bed methane of the Cameo and Cameo coals below the mudstone lenses of the Williams Fork.

I kept asking myself:  Why would Ursa not take advantage of this approach and instead proceed to build the extra pads and pipelines through neighborhoods? The only conclusion I can reach, given the support Ursa received by the PUD builder and other people heavily involved in real estate ventures, Ursa would gain portfolio assets for future Niobrara development and the vested people would gain more foreclosures and cheap developed homes and property with distressed sales. Many of these people are still betting on the old Exxon-Mobile dream of oil production from the oil shale.

MY bet is Ursa is getting ready to dump Piceance Basin holdings like they did in North Dakota in 2012, before buying Antero’s Piceance assets. Unlike WPX, EnCana, Shell and others, Ursa doesn’t employ a real staff. Everybody has been sub-contracted for everything from legal, to studies (including geologists that weren’t even contracted to visit sites), and pipeline designs in a hillside where another company had landslide failure in a similar location. They have not demonstrated they can even handle flowback odors, noise, or a comprehensive plan with their contract drilling/completion crews.

The point here is that even the bigger better-trained and staffed companies have really pulled in their horns during this present oil & gas glut. Ursa puts up a front but still appears to me to be a “shell” of property flippers. Like the real estate flippers on the TV shows who buy, fix-up, and sell, they are very much in a bind to get their “properties” on the market. And the residents of Battlement Mesa are the ones that lose their life estates, health, safety, and well-being.

It brings to my mind the plot of an old movie where a small group of people con an unsuspecting community into the idea of a need for “76 trombones and a marching band.”



*Bob Arrington lives inside the Battlement Mesa PUD. He is a retired engineer and the Battlement Mesa citizen representative on Garfield County’s Energy Advisory Board (EAB). He also represents the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and the Battlement Concerned Citizens.

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