oil and gas

Wyoming crude oil production is on the upswing.

The state produced more crude oil last year than it has in any year since 1999.  That's in line with a nationwide trend; last year the country produced more crude oil than it has in any year since 1989.

State geologist Tom Drean says the increase can be attributed to more drilling activity in unconventional plays like shale and tight sands, made possible because of technologies like fracking, and horizontal and extended reach drilling.

Repealing tax credits for fossil fuel producers and strengthening the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas program are the among the energy proposals in President Obama’s 2015 budget.

University of Wyoming

The University of Wyoming is getting a major donation for its new energy and engineering research complex.  Halliburton is giving $2 million to be applied towards a 'high bay' research facility.  

The facility's size will allow for large scale experiments.  Halliburton is also giving UW an additional $1 million for research into unconventional oil and gas reservoirs.  The gift will be matched by the state.  Governor Matt Mead says it was an exciting discussion with Halliburton.

The Wyoming House of Representatives has given final approval to a bill that would raise the bond from $2,000 to $10,000 for oil and gas drillers seeking access to privately owned land. 

The bond is used to repair damage to surface land when a use agreement can't be reached between the landowner and the energy company.  Opponents says that the increase is too high.  

Casper Republican Tom Walters said increasing the bond wages war on industry.

The Wyoming House of Representatives began debating a bill that would increase the bonding required from oil and gas developers who need to drill on private surface land. 

The bond is used in lieu of a negotiated surface use agreement between landowners and energy companies. The agreement established payment for surface damage. Currently the bond is two thousand dollars and the bill would raise it to ten thousand dollars. 

Willow Belden

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is planning to review several controversial issues, including flaring, well-setbacks and bonding, starting in March.

Those topics have come up a lot in recent years, with the boom in drilling. The Powder River Basin Resource Council asked the Commission to address them last year, and so have several residents in recent opinion pieces in the Casper Star-Tribune.

According to a new report, Wyoming voters are more likely to vote for candidates who support using public lands for more than just oil and gas development.

With no debate the Wyoming Senate gave final approval to a bill that would raise bonding for oil and gas drillers seeking access to surface land they don't own. 

The current bond is $2,000. The bill is attempting to raise that to $10,000, partly in an effort to encourage operators to negotiate surface use agreements with landowners.

The Wyoming Senate began debate on a bill that would increase bonding requirements for oil and gas operators on split estate properties.

The bill would increase the bond for operators drilling on land where they don't own the surface rights from two-thousand dollars to ten thousand.  Supporters say that operators are causing surface damage in excess of ten thousand dollars. 

Senators voted down an amendment to reduce limit the bond to six thousand dollars.  Kaycee Senator John Schiffer says the higher bond helps protect landowner rights.

The Senate Minerals Committee approved a bill Monday that would increase the amount of money oil and gas operators have to put up before accessing split estate properties.

A split estate is when a private landowner owns the surface land and not the mineral rights. The bill raises the minimum bonding amount from $2,000 to $10,000. The bond covers any damages to the property from development, when a surface use agreement can’t be negotiated.

Ozone forecasting in Sublette County will begin again in January. Ozone is a hazardous gas that’s formed under certain conditions by the combination of volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides. In recent years Sublette County has seen spikes in ozone during wintertime, particularly on days with no wind, lots of sunlight and snow on the ground.

The resource curse is real -- and discernible even at the county level -- according to a new study from the non-profit research group Headwater Economics.

Researchers looked at more than 200 counties across six western states, and found that those with above-average oil and gas development over a long period of time had lower per capita incomes, less educational attainment and higher crime rates.

The Department of Interior’s oil and gas royalty program has been examined repeatedly in the past for weaknesses and high risk of mismanagement and a new Government Accountability Office study suggests more can be done to guarantee a fair return on extracted natural resources. The study says one of the biggest issues is that the DOI does not have set procedures for reviewing the royalty program.

The legislature’s Joint Minerals Committee is mostly onboard with a new plan to plug abandoned oil and gas wells in the state. The committee discussed the Governor’s plan at a meeting on Thursday. Senator Chris Rothfuss says while the committee had questions about some of the details, like the cost and timeline, there was a general agreement that the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission should move forward with the plugging.

Bob Jenkins / Wikipedia

Legislators had a lot of questions about a proposed water-testing rule for oil and gas wells during a meeting of the Minerals Committee last week.

Governor Matt Mead proposed the rule, which would require water testing before and after drilling. Industry estimates it would cost $9,000 to $18,000 per well. The governor’s natural resources policy advisor, Jerimiah Rieman, told legislators it’s worth the cost.

“From my perspective, it’s pretty cheap insurance for the companies,” Rieman said. “It’s pretty cheap for the state to have a rider on that policy.”

Irina Zhorov

A legislative committee would like to see faster progress on a program to plug abandoned oil and gas wells. That was the message for Oil and Gas Supervisor Grant Black at a meeting of the legislature’s Minerals Committee today.

Committee members criticized Black for not providing a concrete plan for plugging or repurposing the wells. There are currently 1,200 orphaned wells in the state, and that number is expected to double in the next year.

Oil and gas operators need more insurance, or bonding. That’s what the leaders of several state agencies told the legislature’s Minerals Committee at a meeting today. They said there’s a gap in how much money is available and how much is needed to deal with abandoned oil and gas wells. The question is: where will that money come from?

Oil and Gas Commission Supervisor, Grant Black, says the bonding structure can be changed to avoid similar problems in the future.  

Wikipedia

After what the state characterized as a knock-down, drag-out fight with Chesapeake Oil, it’s planning to allow drilling in a sage grouse conservation area.

The protected areas were established by executive order in 2011 in order to conserve critical sage grouse habitat, with the goal of keeping the bird off the endangered species list. The new plan modifies the protections in an area near Douglas where Chesapeake has oil and gas leases. 

We recently reported that an oil and gas company operating in Wyoming was fined by the federal Office of Natural Resource Revenue for not submitting production reports. Turns out, the company has a history of poor behavior in the state, fiscally and environmentally. Although Pure Petroleum’s gross neglect of its responsibilities is somewhat of an exception, it does point to big flaws in the oil and gas industry’s reclamation system.

The comment period closed Monday on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Regional Haze Plan. The plan seeks to address the issue of air pollution produced by coal fired power plants. Wyoming put together its own regional haze program, but the EPA rejected parts of it, saying it wasn't strong enough, particularly when it came to nitrogen oxide emissions at four plants.

For the most part, industry is happy with the new draft rules for baseline water testing near oil and gas wells. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission released its latest draft of them last week.

Petroleum Association of Wyoming Vice President John Robitaille says he continues to hear from association members that baseline testing is necessary.

“In all honesty, I think we probably should have been doing this several years ago,” he says.

This week the federal government will close testimony on proposed fracking rules. 

Opponents of fracking say the proposed federal regulations are too weak and those in Wyoming say they prefer the state’s rules. 

Deb Thomas of Clark has expressed concerns about fracking in Wyoming for a number of years.  She says Wyoming’s rules are strong, but she thinks they could also be improved.  

The Department of the Interior’s Office on Natural Resources Revenue – or ONRR – is fining Pure Petroleum more than $300,000 for not filing monthly production reports.

Reports detailing production on public lands are used to check the accuracy of royalty payments to the government. According to ONRR spokesman, Patrick Etchart, Pure Petroleum has not filed production reports on 16 leases since 2006.

A bill in Congress that would give states the exclusive right to regulate hydraulic fracturing has raised the ire of a national sportsmen’s advocacy group.  Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development has released a statement supporting federal regulation.  U-S Representative for Wyoming, Cynthia Lummis is a member of the Natural Resources Committee, which sponsored House Bill 2728 against federal regulation. 

As the state initiates its investigation of water quality issues in Pavillion, two state agencies plan to review existing data before deciding how to proceed. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and the Department of Environmental Quality will look at the well bore integrity of about 50 oil and gas wells within a quarter mile of 14 domestic water wells that had at least one pollutant at levels above drinking water standards. 

Elizabeth Shogren/NPR

The Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comments on the extension of several water discharge permits on the Wind River Indian Reservation.

The EPA is looking at renewing existing permits that allow companies to pump waste water from oil and gas fields to the surface on the Reservation. The produced water exemption allows this practice only in the arid West. In general, state agencies have tighter regulations than the EPA about what can be pumped to the surface, but tribal land is under the EPA’s jurisdiction.    

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted Tuesday to start the formal rulemaking process to establish baseline water testing in the state. The rule would require oil and gas operators to collect water samples before beginning development.  

Julianne Couch is the author of Traveling the Power Line, a book about the many energy sources we tap into for our power needs – from oil and gas, to wind, to solar and uranium.

Couch teaches at the University of Wyoming and has also written Jukeboxes and Jackalopes: A Wyoming Bar Journey and Waking Up Western: Collected Essays. She now lives in Iowa but stopped by the studio to talk to Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov about her book.

Willow Belden

Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck spoke with the new supervisor of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Grant Black.  Since he started the job a few weeks ago, Black has been dealing with issues ranging from the flaring of natural gas to water contamination.  He says the flaring issue is interesting.

Wyoming hosts mining reclamation conference

Jun 4, 2013

Mining industry representatives and researchers are gathering in Laramie this week for the meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation. The last time Wyoming hosted the American Society of Mining and Reclamation was in 2007. Peter Stahl, director of the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center, says the fact that the industry gathering has returned to Wyoming so soon is a testament to the state’s role in the field of land reclamation.

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