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PRB Oil Drilling

An oil drilling site sits in the Powder River Basin.

Wyoming regulators will allow an oil and gas firm to flare up to 4 million cubic feet of gas per day from two wells in the Powder River Basin for up to three months while a pipeline is completed.

At a meeting before the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Tuesday, representatives for the company, Titan Exploration, said they may not need to burn off any gas, but delays on getting surface agreements in place meant the oil wells may be ready to produce before infrastructure is ready to capture and move the gas.

Flaring — the practice of burning off gas that is not captured or vented in oil and gas production — is allowed by Wyoming regulations at up to 60,000 cubic feet per day from oil wells. An operator needs a permit to exceed that allowance.

Flaring is frowned upon by environmental groups and has historically irked the members of the conservation commission — the board tasked with ensuring Wyoming’s resources are not wasted and state rules regarding the industry are enforced.

However, the commission has also acknowledged industry’s desire to flare, at times, to prove investment is warranted in infrastructure, particularly as a way to entice developers of pipeline and gathering systems to build that network.

A request for flaring similar to the one approved Tuesday was granted by the commission in August. In that case, three proposed wells were located about 14 miles from an existing pipeline network. The commission granted less gas on average per day, but the exemption was allowed for a longer period of time.

“I don’t like flaring one bit,” Commissioner Mark Doelger said in the conservation commission hearing Tuesday.

Though the amount that could be flared from the two Titan wells sounds like a lot, it is a fraction of the total gas production that is produced in Wyoming every day, the commissioner said.

“I think as a state and as producers … we’ve done a pretty good job,” he said.

Commissioner Erin Campbell, the state geologist, asked if 2 million cubic feet per day was a high enough estimate for how much gas was going to come out of each well.

Brett Sinclair, VP of operations for Titan, said the estimate took into account the decline curve for gas. Had the time period for flaring been shorter, Titan likely would have asked for a higher per day flare amount. But, gas volumes are expected to peak in the first full month of production and then fall, he said.

“While we want to give ourselves some cushion, again, our goal here is to minimize (waste),” he said.

The company said its flaring plan included 24-hour monitoring and that no hydrogen sulfide — a poisonous gas — had been detected in samples in the Niobrara formation Titan is targeting.

Titan has ambitious plans in the Powder River Basin and wants to kick off continual drilling in the second half of 2019, a consultant explained Tuesday. The company currently has 74 applications for permits to drill approved by Wyoming regulators and more than 500 applications filed.

The wells for which Titan is seeking flaring exceptions also have a role to play in Titan’s plans for Wyoming as it is one of the firms de-risking various pays in the Powder. The well data will help plan next steps for drilling after stipulations that limit oil and gas activity are lifted in the spring.

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Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner

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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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