Flaring

Roy Merrill, an engineer at a Wold Energy drilling site near Rolling Hills, points out various parts of the rig recently during a tour of the well. State oil and gas lease sales brought $60 million to Wyoming in 2017.

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune

Wyoming has made $60 million from oil and gas lease sales on state lands this year, exceeding a revenue goal by 500 percent, according to the Office of State Lands and Investments.

The most recent sale, a one-week online bidding war that closed in early November, drew 80 bidders and netted nearly $17 million.

Land parcels covering about 95,000 acres across 16 of the state’s 23 counties were nominated for the lease sale by interested parties in the oil and gas industry.

The majority of the money from this year’s sales, some $53 million, goes to K-12 education.

Day-to-day funding for Wyoming’s public schools is facing a $430 million deficit over the next two years, thanks to a multi-year downturn in the states key revenue drivers: oil, gas and coal.

“We hope these results are an indication that the oil and gas industry in Wyoming is stabilizing,” Bridget Hill, state lands and investments director, said in a statement Wednesday.

Online lease sales have increased participation, according to both state and federal land managers in Wyoming, and driven up the price per acre in some areas.

The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees 17.5 million acres of federal land in Wyoming largely used for recreation, ranching and industry development, has also had a good year for lease sales.

Its February auction brought in $129 million for leases in the High Plains District, which includes the Powder River Basin. About half of that federal revenue goes to the state.

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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