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Drilling interest remains strong in Wyoming as other basins face challenges

With not enough pipeline capacity to move the prolific mineral development in Texas’s Permian basin, large firms are thinking of distributing their resources elsewhere.

A number of companies are either considering other regions where they have a presence or reducing completions on wells in the Permian, according to a recent report from the Energy Information Administration that considered 45 large oil and gas firms’ financial reports earlier in the year.

Those companies represented about one-third of U.S. oil and other liquids production in the second quarter.

Brian Jeffries, of the Wyoming Pipeline Authority, said he doesn’t have firm evidence to tie troubles with pipelines down in the Permian to a direct advantage in Wyoming.

But it’s a reasonable assumption, he said.

“Given the troubles in the Permian — the Permian is the best example of trouble — that reallocations of capital to Wyoming at least in the short run would make sense,” he said. “Unless we had someone’s earnings report say that, I would have to stick with, it seems plausible.”


Some larger firms have begun to talk about Wyoming in a significant way, though not because of pipeline issues in other basins. The state’s Powder River Basin is simply growing in prominence for some firms.

Both Anadarko Petroleum and EOG Resources noted the state’s importance in recent earnings calls with investors.

“The Powder River Basin is now ready to become a meaningful contributor to EOG’s future growth,” Dave Trice, executive vice president for EOG’s exploration and production, said in August. “For 2019, we expect to increase our activity as we add infrastructure and prepare to bring the Powder into full development.”

Wyoming regulators have 18,000 applications for permit to drill in a queue awaiting approval. In order to deal with the record volumes, the state has instituted a first-to-drill schedule, so that producers who are ready to deploy rigs move to the top of the list for processing and approvals. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is moving through up to 150 applications per month.

Many of those will not be approved, but the activity speaks to increased interest in either drilling in Wyoming or securing primacy over a drilling area by being the first to secure a permit.

With the price of crude hovering between $65 and $70 a barrel for West Texas Intermediate, interest is up in Wyoming and other areas of the country, with the majority of the country’s drilling rigs located in the Permian Basin.

For some time, the higher prices for leases in Texas has encouraged Wyoming industry as a potential driver of development in places like the Powder River Basin, a play that appears to be reaching a tipping point but still offers a bargain.

The largest portion of the drilling permits popping up in Wyoming comes from three players: Anadarko, EOG and a family firm from Casper, Wold Energy.


According to the Energy Information Administration, the pipeline constraints in the Permian will likely continue into next year.

Jeffries noted that the lack of takeaway capacity isn’t affecting all producers equally.

“Some people down there have access to firm pipeline and oil pipeline capacity that they signed up for long ago,” he said. “There is a clearly a class of winners and losers and people in the middle down there.”

One could presume that a large firm like Anadarko may want to shift money to a place where capacity is less of an issue. But it depends on that access to transportation, he said.

There are challenges that could redirect drilling to Wyoming. Colorado voters will consider a citizen-led initiative to increase the setback between dwellings and oil and gas operations. The extension would make it difficult to drill in the majority of the state, leaving the future of the industry for Wyoming’s neighbor uncertain.

What’s more pertinent in the short term for Wyoming is the jockeying going on as operators figure out how to approach the Powder River Basin and other formations.

“As soon as they’ve got that figured out they move from science mode into development mode,” Jeffries said. “(The permit interest in Wyoming) would suggest that those entities have started to cross that barrier.”

Wyoming’s Powder remains small potatoes in comparison to the Permian, where there are currently 488 active rigs, according to the Baker Hughes rig count. The entire state of Wyoming has about 30 rigs.

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune 

Two mule deer bucks peek from behind a house while grazing in central Casper on Thursday. 

At UN, unrepentant Trump set to rattle foes, friends alike

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump is poised to redouble his commitment to “America First” on the most global of stages this week.

In the sequel to his stormy U.N. debut, Trump will stress his dedication to the primacy of U.S. interests while competing with Western allies for an advantage on trade and shining a spotlight on the threat that he says Iran poses to the Middle East and beyond.

One year after Trump stood before the U.N. General Assembly and derided North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man,” the push to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula is a work in progress, although fears of war have given way to hopes for rapprochement.

Scores of world leaders, even those representing America’s closest friends, remain wary of Trump. In the 12 months since his last visit to the U.N., the president has jolted the global status quo by pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, starting trade conflicts with China and the West and embracing Russia’s Vladimir Putin even as the investigation into the U.S. president’s ties to Moscow moves closer to the Oval Office.

Long critical of the United Nations, Trump delivered a warning shot ahead of his arrival by declaring that the world body had “not lived up to” its potential.

“It’s always been surprising to me that more things aren’t resolved,” Trump said in a weekend video message, “because you have all of these countries getting together in one location but it doesn’t seem to get there. I think it will.”

If there is a throughline to the still-evolving Trump doctrine on foreign policy, it is that the president will not subordinate American interests on the world stage, whether for economic, military or political gain.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters in a preview of Trump’s visit that the president’s focus “will be very much on the United States,” its role and the relations it wants to build.

“He is looking forward to talking about foreign policy successes the United States has had over the past year and where we’re going to go from here,” she said. “He wants to talk about protecting U.S. sovereignty,” while building relationships with nations that “share those values.”

In his four-day visit to New York, Trump will deliver major speeches and meet with representatives of a world order that he has so often upended in the past year. Like a year ago, North Korea’s nuclear threat will hover over the gathering, though its shadow may appear somewhat less ominous.

The nuclear threat was sure to be on the agenda at Trump’s first meeting, a dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Manhattan on Sunday night. Abe stands first among world leaders in cultivating a close relationship with the president through displays of flattery that he has used to advance his efforts to influence the unpredictable American leader.

This afternoon, Trump planned to sit down with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who comes bearing a personal message to Trump from North Korea’s Kim after their inter-Korean talks last week. Trump and Moon are expected to sign a new version of the U.S.-South Korean trade agreement, one of Trump’s first successes in his effort to renegotiate trade deals on more favorable terms for the U.S.

Even so, some U.S. officials worry that South Korea’s eagerness to restore relations with the North could reduce sanctions pressure on Kim’s government, hampering efforts to negotiate a nuclear accord.

“We have our eyes wide open,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “There is a long ways to go to get Chairman Kim to live up to the commitment that he made to President Trump and, indeed, to the demands of the world in the U.N. Security Council resolutions to get him to fully denuclearize.”

Trump’s address to the General Assembly comes Tuesday, and on Wednesday he will for the first time chair the Security Council, with the stated topic of non-proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. The subject initially was to have been Iran, but that could have allowed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to attend, creating a potentially awkward situation for the U.S. leader.

Aides say the president also will use the session to discuss North Korea and other proliferation issues. While Trump is not seeking a meeting with Rouhani, he is open to talking with the Iranian leader if Rouhani requests one, administration officials said.

In meetings with European leaders as well as during the Security Council session, Trump plans to try to make the case that global companies are cutting ties with Iran ahead of the reimposition in five weeks of tough sanctions against Tehran. The penalties are a result of Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Trump also is expected to deliver a fresh warning to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad that the use of chemical weapons against civilians in the major rebel stronghold of Idlib would have serious repercussions. Britain and France are actively planning a military response should Assad use chemical weapons again, according to U.S. officials.

“I think he’s got a couple major possibilities really to help illuminate for the American people what America’s place in the world,” national security adviser John Bolton told Fox News Channel’s ‘Sunday Morning Futures,” previewing Trump’s U.N. appearance.

Casper hospital helps injured patient heal by reuniting her with her dog

Even after emergency responders covered Chris Leigh’s body with a blanket, his 11-year old yellow Labrador retriever wouldn’t leave his side.

“Babe stayed at my husband’s feet,” Shelley Leigh said. “She must have known he was gone.”

The Leighs, who were vacationing in Wyoming from Alabama, were involved in a fatal car accident Sept. 4 between Encampment and Saratoga. Chris Leigh, 71, died at the scene. Shelley Leigh spent about a week receiving treatment for her injuries at Wyoming Medical Center.

Some of the earlier days are a blur, she recalled.

“I had a concussion and I was in a lot of pain— I don’t think I was thinking straight,” Shelley said. “They told me Chris was dead and I remember asking about Babe. I couldn’t remember where she was.”

Babe, who also injured in the wreck, was receiving care at Carbon County Veterinary Hospital. But Cari Hacking, the trauma coordinator at Wyoming Medical Center, promised to reunite the patient with her pet as soon as possible.

Patients who’ve experienced trauma need more than stitches and surgery, Hacking explained. Their mental and emotional well-being must also be taken into consideration.

“It’s really important for us to do everything we can to help people heal,” she said.

For some patients, that might mean sending in the hospital’s chaplain to pray with them, she explained. Others might want a staff member to sit by their side and listen.

But for Shelley, Hacking — a fellow dog-lover — believed bringing in Babe would be beneficial.

“(The hospital staff) put ourselves in her shoes, and we would need our dogs to help us through that,” she said.

After the vet clinic approved Babe for travel, Hacking said she drove to Carbon County and picked up the pup. Once they arrived at Wyoming Medical Center, the staff placed Babe in a wheelchair and rolled her up to see Shelley.

Babe had injured her back legs in the accident and was struggling to walk.

Hacking said the Labrador—who was quiet and nervous during the drive— immediately perked up when she spotted her owner.

“She started licking my arm,” she said. “I think she was trying to thank me for bringing her back to her family.”

Shelley recalled feeling a flood of relief when Babe was brought into her room. She said it was comforting to have her dog at her side and helped to reduce her anxiety.

Babe spent her days with Shelley and her nights recovering at Westside Animal Hospital.

The dog’s recovery is going well, added Shelley, who was speaking to the Star-Tribune from her home in Montrose, Alabama. Babe’s legs are stronger and she no longer needs a wheelchair to move around.

Chris and Babe were best friends who enjoyed hunting and fishing together, according to Shelley. She said her husband would wake up in the morning and “do whatever Babe wanted to do.”

Chris wasn’t just beloved by his family, Shelley added.

“Everyone loved him,” she said. “He had a great affection for this world and was larger than life.”

Shelley said she greatly appreciates everyone who cared for her and Babe. It’s painful to lose your husband, she said, but having support made it bearable.

“The people in Wyoming are the nicest people in the world,” she said. “Everyone went out of their way to help us.”