Skip to comments.Powder River Showdown
Posted on 08/04/2002 2:44:42 AM PDT by The Raven
he Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana may appear unprepossessing to people whose idea of the West is the peaks of Grand Teton National Park. It is a windswept, grassy landscape, pure ranch country, with a subtle beauty all its own. The basin now finds itself at the epicenter of a larger national struggle between the country's energy needs and its environmental values, between a Bush administration that is determined to drill for oil and gas and the conservationists and ranchers who are equally determined to protect their vulnerable and increasingly threatened landscape.
The administration's plans for the basin are breathtakingly ambitious. It aims to sink 51,000 coal bed methane wells in Wyoming over 10 years, and 26,000 more in Montana. The prize is roughly 25 trillion cubic feet of methane gas, a form of natural gas - slightly more than the nation consumes in one year. Coal bed methane was a big component of the Bush-Cheney energy strategy even before the Senate defeated President Bush's proposal to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As fossil fuels go, it is relatively clean burning. But there's nothing clean about extracting it.
For starters, to free the gas, huge quantities of water must be pumped from the coal seam. At the surface, the gas is collected in compressor stations that roar like jet engines 24 hours a day, then piped away. The water is dumped in streams and ditches. In a semi-arid region like the Powder River Basin, extra water might seem like a boon, except for two things. The high salt content renders much of the water unfit for irrigation. And the pumping depletes underground aquifers, threatening the agricultural future of the region.
There are other costs. Environmentalists say that in Wyoming alone, the plan would require 17,000 miles of new roads, 20,000 miles of pipeline, 200 large compressors and nearly 5,000 containment pits for the water. The 12,000 wells already developed in the basin have left scars on the landscape. One can only imagine the damage from 77,000 new wells.
The sheer invasiveness of methane development has created unusual alliances, alienating not only environmentalists but also bedrock Republican ranchers of the sort the White House takes for granted. The ranchers who do not own the mineral rights under their property have discovered they can't say no when the drillers come knocking at their door.
Partly because it has already been violated, the basin does not fall into the ``too wild to drill'' category - places like Montana's Rocky Mountain Front or Wyoming's Bridger-Teton National Forest - that the Wilderness Society and other groups have asked the administration to avoid altogether. Even ardent conservationists agree that further energy development in the basin is bound to occur.
What they insist on, however, is a responsible approach to drilling. And on this score the Interior Department and its Bureau of Land Management, which developed the plan, have not been reassuring. In April, Mr. Bush's own Environmental Protection Agency, required by law to review such projects, found the bureau's draft environmental impact statement inadequate and warned that without new safeguards the project would cause unacceptable environmental damage. This ruling, coupled with other unfavorable legal verdicts, has given the critics breathing room while sending the administration a clear signal to get its house in order.
The question is whether it will. The pressures on the Interior Department to proceed with vigorous exploration are fierce. In addition, a key player in this debate - Steven Griles, the department's deputy secretary - is a former lobbyist for the coal bed methane industry.
The Bureau of Land Management says it is working with the E.P.A. to address its concerns. But mere tinkering will not do. The project needs a thorough overhaul. Drilling must proceed at an orderly pace, the best available technology must be deployed at every turn, and damage to private ranchland must be fully repaired at industry expense. Above all, ways must be found to save the water. Water, not methane, is the lifeblood of the region.
Ya da---ya da---ya da
Leave it to the NY Slime to distort and lie. First of all, the vast majority of the wells produce water that is purer than the water the ranchers drink.
Second, the acquifers the ranchers use for water are above the coal seams and not affected by the production.
Third, the holding tanks and ponds/mini-lakes constructed for the ranchers are used for irrigation, stocked fish and livestock water. Sounds pretty pure to me.
Partly because it has already been violated, the basin does not fall into the ``too wild to drill'' category
Typical extremist swill language designed to create the FALSE impression of massive damage.
The prize is roughly 25 trillion cubic feet of methane gas, a form of natural gas - slightly more than the nation consumes in one year.
Once again we see an ANWR-like distortion. When fully developed, it is estimated that the Powder River methane will be enough gas to provide for all of Califonia's energy needs for twenty years. Like the ANWR distortion, "six months of the nations TOTAL oil needs", instead of saying it would replace Saudi imports of 1 million barrels a day for twenty years.
The nation needs to know that ANWR was only the opening shot in the Enviro-nazis attempts to stop all rational production of the country's energy needs.
Exactly correct. Anybody who has driven from Gillette to Buffalo, KNOWS that this area is as desolate as they come. Gillette to Buffalo takes you right through the heart of the thousands of earth=raping wells they talk about. Taking that route. you will probably not see more than about 50 wells (ouy of 12,000).
The article also does not address how many ranchers have seen this as a windfall monetarily.
For example, the average ranch in that area is at least 2,000 acres. 2000 divided by 80 acre spacing equals 25 wells, times .125 per cent royalty, times $2.00 per mcf times 100 mcf per day average times thirty days equals approximately $18,750 per month for that rancher.
The wells around the Gillette area average close to 500 mcf per day and the total field average is around 175-200 mcf per day, so I have been conservative.
I'd be leary of that stock. I've seen it pop up on "news" when I've looked at the recent news for Williams Energy (WMB). Williams has gone from $0.90 to above $3.00 in the last week or two. Williams (by virtue of buying Barrett Resources), is the number one producer in the Powder River basin coals, along with their 50/50 partner Western Gas Resources.
You're welcome. Being in the business, I get tired of the spin, lies and distortion that we have to battle on a daily basis.
I am leary, believe me. My point was that they apparently have a stake in the peripheral properties to those owned by the major players. I will defer to the opinions of those actually in the oil/gas production business on whether or not that is a good position to be in, OTOH, the potential may exist that makes their current share price quite attractive for the speculators among us.
OTOOH (On the Other Other Hand), The OTC is littered with the remnants of other wildcat operators who were not so successful....
BOBTHENAILER'S reply: Typical extremist swill language designed to create the FALSE impression of massive damage.
Don't confuse 'em with facts, Bob. They (the eco-nut extremists) don't want no stinkin' FACTS.
The Powder River Basin has been subject to exploration and drilling for maybe 50 years.
Still looks like a place where the hand of man has never set foot.
ROFLMAO.. Too true, facts are inconvenient and get in the way of a good crybaby eco-story.
Thanks for bringing the history of the Powder River Basin to light, I should have as well. Deep wells have been drilled there for over 50 years and will probably be drilled for another ten to twenty as well.
Didn't mean to throw cold water on your "potential tasty morsel", but I read a couple of their press releases and they seemed to be a little on the HYPE side. If I could get a legal description of their leasehold it would help in evaluation, but that has not been depicted in the releases.
I play the market a bit as well. I would only be wary on that company because I've been involved in the CBM play there and know that some areas don't have the good coals. Its a huge "semi-blanket" play, you just don't want to be in the "semi" areas of the blanket.
No wonder so many people are confused & don't trust energy producers. The true story doesn't get out often enough.
We ought to support this project AND the ranchers who will benefit from some no-doubt very welcome income. Your informed perspective is appreciated.
True enough, on a national scale. Locally, the Gillette, Buffalo and Sheridan newspapers give at least a balanced approach. Of course, we'll NEVER see that in any national press coverage.
The environmentalists never seem to have the end game figured out. They just want to kill capitalism through environmental policies - but what then? Where are we going? Serfdom, dictatorship? War? Are we all to live like the Amish?
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