Drilling-rig totals dip; production strong

Drilling-rig totals dip; production strong

GILLETTE – After reaching record numbers in 2006, the number of rigs drilling for natural gas and oil has dropped dramatically in Wyoming, with the state falling behind Colorado in active drilling rigs for the first time in nine years.

“A lot of people are having to go somewhere else with the rigs,” Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission supervisor Don Likwartz said.

But Likwartz said the drastic reduction in active rigs does not signal the end of the natural gas rush in Wyoming.

The state reached a 20-year high of 112 rigs for one week in 2006 and marked a daily average of 109 rigs in September. The daily average rig count so far in 2007 is 73, and one week dipped to 69 rigs, according to state figures.

In the Powder River Basin, drilling for coalbed methane is down 40 percent compared with the same time last year. The industry marked an average 43 active rigs in 2006, and so far the 2007 average is 26.

But the industry is also bringing on wells that are producing more gas as it concentrates on the Big George coal seam. In June 2006, the Powder River Basin coalbed methane industry broke the 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day mark for the first time. Despite declining rig numbers, those bigger wells in the Big George have steadily pushed production upward.

As of this week, daily production in the Powder River Basin was at 1.117 billion cubic feet per day. Although drilling activity is down in the basin, production isn’t expected to drop anytime soon. In fact, two pipeline companies are considering expanding takeaway capacity out of the Powder River Basin.

Likwartz also noted that this winter has been much more severe than last winter. Also, several drilling companies in the Pinedale Anticline and Jonah gas fields are in the process of switching out diesel-powered rigs for cleaner-burning natural-gas-fired rigs.

Source: billingsgazette.net

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