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Wold Drilling

Ron Auflick, head of operations and "chief roughneck" for Wold Energy Partners, walks through the rig in October outside of Rolling Hills. Figures released later this month are expected to show how many jobs have returned since the end of the bust.

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Last week in numbers

Friday oil prices: West Texas Intermediate (WTI) $56.55 Brent (ICE) $62.72

Natural gas weekly averages: Henry Hub $3.11, Wyoming Pool $2.81, Opal $2.84

Baker Hughes rig count: U.S. 915, Wyoming 21

Quote of the week

“We are in that pattern now where we are waiting for the next thing to give the state a boost,” Jim Robinson, Wyoming state economist

Losses last 

State economists say Wyoming's fiscal health is closer to what it was before the bust, when you look at mining spending, tourism and wages. But that doesn't make up for the incredible revenue losses its suffered over the last few years. 

More importantly, there's no short-term boost expected. For now, the economy is what it is. 

Lease sales surprise

All year, federal and state oil and gas lease sales have been positive. But on the state side, the auction of land for development exceeded revenue expectations by 500 percent this year, according to State Lands. 

The good old PRB

The Energy Journal podcast is back, an opportunity to listen in on the conversations that turn into energy stories at the Star-Tribune. The podcast coincides with our energy business story that falls on the third Sunday of the month, and it will always be linked here in the Energy Journal newsletter. 

You can also check it out online at or on our Twitter feed @EnergyJRNL.

This month we talk to an operator enamored with the Powder River Basin. Industry is figuring out the intriguing rock and its long-assumed potential and looking rosy-eyed to the future of this play.  

As operators push to develop the PRB hoping for a Bakken-level boom, others are more cautious, fearing the tumult and risk associated with booms, and their busts. And federal regulators are caught in the middle, balancing numerous interests in the energy state. 

Coal bed blues

The company that bought Storm Cat's producible wells in the northern Powder River Basin is having trouble getting landowner access to the coal bed methane assets. 

After years of disagreement over the abandoned wells, it seems no one is willing to draw up new contracts. 

The company went before the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Tuesday asking for a time extension to deal with the landowner dilemma. They'd previously been order to have agreements in place within three months of the well sale in August. 

The commission agreed to more time, with provisions.  

No good deed

Cloud Peak isn't associated with debts. The company avoided the over-leveraging that ultimately pushed Peabody, Arch and Alpha Natural Resources towards bankruptcy. 

Unfortunately, the firm does have debt, it just has about four years before it comes due thanks to restructuring last year. 

The coal market is tightening and right now the strongest players are the ones that filed for Ch. 11 and came out shedding their debt burdens, not the ones that avoided it in the first place. 

Being a good neighbor

Federal regulators have awarded four Wyoming coal companies with a good neighbor award for reclamation and community engagement.

Arch Coal, Cloud Peak Energy, Kiewit Mining Group, and Peabody Energy, were singled out for their stewardship and collaboration with the Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association. 

"Partnering with the ranching and business communities and working collaboratively is clearly in the best interest of our state," said Travis Deti, Wyoming Mining Association executive director. "Our reclamation and environmental stewardship are world class, and we can all be proud of the men and women who work so hard to make this happen."

Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner


Energy Reporter

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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