The Bureau of Land Management released an environmental study on Friday for a 5,000-well oil and gas project in Converse County.
Five major players in Wyoming industry proposed the joint project, which would cover 1.5 million acres, just north of Interstate 25 between Glenrock and Douglas, and take place over a period of 10 years. Each well proposed is expected to last about 30 years, according to the environmental study.
It’s a hefty undertaking in a region of Wyoming that’s already expecting another oil and gas boom if prices hold.
Anadarko Resources, Chesapeake Energy, EOG Resources, SM Energy and Devon Energy are the partners on the proposal, first made in 2014, before the oil sector busted. The Bureau of Land Management anticipates the joint approach to drilling in the southern Powder River Basin will generate more than 8,000 jobs and between $18 billion and $28 billion in revenue.
“(The environmental study) has been an ongoing effort for several years,” said Jennifer Brice, a spokeswoman for Anadarko. The project, and the federal study, will allow a collaborative approach to development in the region, she said.
Federal, state and private interests are all impacted by the proposed project in the county. About 90 percent of the land is private or state owned. Only about 6 percent of the project’s 1,500 well pads will be built on Bureau of Land Management Land. The remainder is on the U.S Forest Service-managed Thunder Basin National Grasslands.
The Bureau of Land Management owns more than 60 percent of the minerals to be tapped.
The environmental study notes that the proposal calls for year-round development and exemptions to operate in sage grouse and raptor habitat. Of the 53,000 acres directly disturbed for pipelines, roads and pads, about 21,000 acres may be disturbed for the full life of the project.
Converse County is no stranger to oil and gas development. Douglas was in the heart of the 2014 boom, when oil prices eclipsed $100 a barrel. Recently, local officials have signaled that increased industry activity is on the way in 2018.
Companies like Anadarko have already applied for thousands of permits to drill in Converse County, stoking expectation by locals of a boom to rival 2014.
Interest in Converse County has excited some of the Wyoming-based operators who are gleaning information on how to approach the multilayered Powder River Basin from other major players.
Tapping the Powder River Basin north of Douglas has been front and center for the Wold Oil company since last year. The company completed a horizontal well in December north of Glenrock on a pad that can hold more than a dozen more wells, and Wold has moved on rapidly to other drilling in the region.
So far, activity has had some impressive results, said Peter Wold, of Wold Oil Properties. But there are still mysteries in the Powder than can only be solved by more activity, he said in a recent interview with the Star-Tribune.
“I still think we have some work to do to unlatch the key to the ultimate success of the PRB,” Wold said. “We are going to need more wells out there.”
Others are looking at this development with concern.
“I don’t think we’ve seen this scale of drilling,” said Jill Morrison of the Powder River Basin Resource Council, a landowners advocacy group based in Sheridan. “It’s going to be a new, big scale on the landscape. If they don’t do it with a lot of care, it’s going to have some very long-term impacts.”
Morrison’s concerns include water resources to feed this level of drilling activity, and the proper disposal of waste water, as well as air quality impacts and wildlife habitat fragmentation.
One of the issues raised in the environmental study is how the project will impact sage grouse, an imperiled bird that is protected by state and federal provisions. A key habitat for the grouse is located within the project boundary.
Public comment is open until March 12. The Bureau of Land Management will hold three public meetings on the project in Douglas, Casper and Glenrock.