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Energy Journal: Keep an eye on PRB in 2020, Wyoming geologists say
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Energy Journal: Keep an eye on PRB in 2020, Wyoming geologists say

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Wold Drilling

Colby LeBlanc, works on dewatering mud in October at a Wold Energy Partners drill site outside of Rolling Hills. 

Welcome to the Star-Tribune’s Energy Journal, a play-by-play of the past week in Wyoming’s wild world of energy. I’m your energy and natural resources reporter, Camille Erickson. Sign up for the newsletter here.

If the entire country had to rely exclusively on Wyoming's abundant oil reserves, it could last a full 46 days. With these substantial reserves in hand, the Equality State will likely maintain its spot as a leading contributor of energy to the nation into 2020, a new report released Thursday by the Wyoming State Geological Study concluded.

For half a century, the Powder River Basin — a 20,000-square mile region in northeast Wyoming — has served as Wyoming's premiere economic engine. The basin continues to lead Wyoming in oil production, contributing to about half of the state's oil output. That trend shows few signs of slowing down, making it the basin to keep an eye on going in 2020, state geologists told the Star-Tribune. 

Innovations in oil and gas drilling methods this century have enabled producers to tap into more and more unconventional reservoirs, even those with low-porosity formations. 

"In the last two decades, horizontal drilling and fracking have transformed what were previously not-economic reservoirs into pretty significant oil and gas plays," said Derek Lichtner, an oil and gas geologist at Wyoming State Geological Survey. "In the PRB, certain reservoirs such as the Wall Creek Turner and Niobrara were once largely overlooked. But now, because of these advancements and innovations, they are seeing extensive development."

In fact, "conventional reservoirs are becoming a thing of the past," the annual report stated. In their stead have come wildcat wells — new wells often situated in remote reservoirs operators once considered unproductive. 

"As far as the basin to watch, it seems that the consensus is the Powder River Basin is going to be significant as it continues to increase contributions to the state’s oil production," explained Rachel Toner, an oil and gas geologist at the Wyoming State Geological Survey. 

Existing infrastructure in the basin coupled with multiple-stacked reservoir plays make it an ideal place to produce oil, she added.

But the Denver Basin could steal the limelight this year, too.

According to the report, horizontal wells have gifted operators with abundant oil from the basin's unconventional Codell Sandstone, Niobrara Formation and Muddy "J" Sandstone reservoirs.  

In other news...

COAL

OIL & GAS

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WIND & SOLAR

WILDLIFE

  • At the tail end of his first year in office, Gov. Mark Gordon released a draft executive order to bolster migration corridor protections. The draft, published on Dec. 23, attempted to thread the needle between the need to preserve precious wildlife and the need to support Wyoming’s lucrative energy sector. 

CLIMATE

  • Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality issued an Ozone Outlook Friday for the Upper Green River Basin. The notice extends until Tuesday. Daily updates will be available here. "When UGRB Ozone Outlooks are issued, please consider postponing non-essential activities or completing essential activities prior to the days included in the UGRB Ozone Outlook to reduce precursor emissions and ground-level ozone formation," WDEQ stated.

Don’t miss the most memorable stories in energy of 2019 here.

Last week in numbers

Friday oil prices:

  • West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $58.52, Brent (ICE) $64.62

Friday natural gas:

  • Henry Hub $2.07, Wyoming Pool $2.07, Opal $2.12

Baker Hughes rig count:

  • U.S 796 (15), Wyoming 25 (1)

Quote of the week

(Migration corridors) are a pressing problem. We only get one chance to do this right and make sure that we protect these critical pieces of habitat. If we lose these pieces, they’re gone.”

—Kristen Gunther, a conservation advocate at the Wyoming Outdoor Council

Welcome to the Star-Tribune’s Energy Journal, a play-by-play of the past week in Wyoming’s wild world of energy. I’m your energy and natural resources reporter, Camille Erickson. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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Energy and Natural Resources Reporter

Camille Erickson covers the state's energy industries. She received her master's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Before moving to Casper in 2019, she reported on business and labor in Minneapolis, Chicago and Washington.

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