SUBLETTE COUNTY – This year’s springtime planning meeting on May 25 for the Pinedale Anticline Project Area was the first in-person meeting among operators, officials and biologists, the third total since COVID shut down public gatherings.
The meeting took place at the Pinedale Field Office with representatives from the Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game and Fish, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, the Pinedale Anticline Project Office and PureWest, Jonah Energy and the public.
Many changes have taken place since then – including loss of personnel, supply-chain issues and a slowdown in new drilling.
“There was not a lot of new drilling during the pandemic but a lot of production was going on,” said PFO manager Doug Linn. “We usually start with operators’ development plans. Drilling was not really prevalent at all during the last two years but it is changing over the next two years.”
PureWest’s Jasmine Allison said the private company’s (formerly Ultra Resources), goal is “to become the most respected and profitable in the Rockies.” It is Wyoming’s top natural gas producer with more than 3,400 wells on more than 115,500 net acres and produces about 650 million cubic-feet a day.
In 2021, no new wells were drilled, Allison said. Instead, PureWest “bumped out” two well pads. This year, it expanded two more existing pads for an average 1.25 drilling rigs for new wells in all of its Anticline development areas.
Five pads went into interim reclamation in 2021 and two more are planned this year, she said, putting about 88 percent into reclamation. PureWest used temporary electric fencing on seven pads during livestock grazing and of 39 sites treated for cheatgrass in 2020, none have recurred.
Seed mixes used are designed to replace and enhance native vegetation to benefit wildlife all kinds of wildlife, vice president Kelly Bott explained. Seeding pollinator plants – thus attracting insects, birds and wildlife – is part of ongoing reclamation, she said.
Jonah Energy’s vice president Paul Ulrich said his company has a smaller Anticline stake than PureWest but the two have very similar goals.
He and Bott agreed that meeting stricter requirements from the DEQ and the 2008 Pinedale Anticline record of decision have resolved ozone and air-quality problems, making them more responsive to reducing emissions and reclaiming disturbed landscape. Jonah Energy’s ongoing “focus” to reduce emissions is becoming more of an industry-wide focus, he said.
“Same as PureWest, it’s important we keep pushing the envelope on a number of fronts,” Ulrich said. “West Coast customers are constantly demanding a cleaner product.”
Jonah Energy plans to drill one horizontal well and one vertical well from existing pads this year. Both will require fresh water for completions.
In 2023, four new wells are planned, according to Ulrich.
“In the future we will try to drill from existing pads and tie new ones into existing (facilities) and try to tie it all into our liquid gathering system,” he said. “There’s a lot of sprawl in our area but we do the best we can.”
Reclamation specialist Josh Sorenson said Jonah has 26 existing well pads in the Pinedale Anticline and all but two have some “very dynamic” reclamation activity. “Cheatgrass is our devil” and both mechanical and chemical techniques are used. Last year, two pipelines were reclaimed and few other noxious weeds are a problem, he said.
Ulrich and Bott talked more about how the two companies work together to achieve the same standards with slightly different watchdog certification programs.
“Jonah Energy is also partnered with PureWest to monitor the PAPA’s Groundwater Pollution Prevention Program,” he said. “We’re probably two of the cleanest operators in the country.”