By Ernie Over, managing editor, county10.com
(Lander, Wyo.) – A public scoping meeting for the Moneta Divide Natural Gas and Oil Development Project’s Environment Impact Statement drew a large crowd in Lander last night at the Best Western Inn at Lander. At 6:00 p.m. with one hour to go at the event, 40 people had signed in and had begun browsing the displays and asking questions of the Bureau of Land Management, Encana Oil and Gas (USA) and Burlington Resources’s respective project teams. A total of 39 people attended a similar event Tuesday night in Casper. The final public scoping meeting is set in Riverton this evening from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Holiday Inn. The primary purpose of the meetings is to gather public input on the project, which the BLM will consider in their environmental review according to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The public comment period on the project began on January 17th when a Notice of Intent to initiate the NEPA process was published in the Federal Register. The public comment period will close on March 4th. The Lander Field Office of the BLM is leading the development of the EIS.
The Moneta Divide project covers 265,000 acres of land in Fremont and Natrona counties, of which 169,500 acres are in public ownership. The field lies mostly in Eastern Fremont County, between Moneta and Hiland and north of Highway 26. About 80 percent of the field is in Fremont County, the rest in Natrona. The natural gas play was formerly identified as being the “Frenchie Draw” field. The expanded field was renamed Moneta Draw. The project is proposed to drill 4,250 new natural gas and oil wells over a time span of 10 to 15 years. That’s a rate of 280 to 300 wells per year. The project is expected to employ 300 permanent employees and perhaps up to 600 workers during the development stages.
Burlington Resources already has 300 producing wells adjacent to the Moneta Divide project area, which now send “sweet” gas through a pipeline system to market. The firm’s Lysite Natural Gas Processing Plant, however, receives its gas from eight five-mile-deep sour gas wells drilled into the Madison formation.
The public scoping process “is the most critical portion of the EIS because it gives the BLM input up front on what should be analyzed,” said Encana’s Project Leader Paul Ulrich. “It also allows the public’s voice to be heard.”
According to Chris Krassin, the BLM’s Project Manger in Lander, the EIS will study impacts on air quality, water, wildlife and plant life, surface disturbance issues and cultural resources of the Montea Divide project. A record of decision is scheduled in about 3.5 years following issuance of a draft EIS and final EIS.
At a meeting of the LEADER Corp. in Lander in January, then Encana Community Relations Coordinator Randy Teeuwen said lessons learned from the firm’s involvement in the Jonah Field in Sublette County has resulted in a more efficient and less impact full way to drill and produce natural gas. He said mechanized drill rigs have reduced the time it takes to drill each well to between 15 and 16 days. He said the “fit for purpose” rigs are safer to operate and would be powered by natural gas, reducing emissions during drilling. He also said Encana’s vehicle fleet is being converted to Compressed Natural Gas to further reduce emissions.
At a meeting of the Riverton Economic and Community Development Association this past November, Encana’s Wind River area manager John Schmidt and local Production Coordinator Mark Halseide, both of Riverton, said all but 600 of the 4,200 wells of would be drilled by Encana, with the balance by Burlington Resources and other partners.
Under the company’s proposed plan, Halseide also said the Moneta Draw Field would feature drilling rigs powered by natural gas instead of diesel. He also said EnCana’s vehicle fleet is being converted to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as well. The change from diesel, combined with development of a collector pipeline system to deliver well production to multiple processing locations, would reduce emissions by 85 to 90 percent. The central processing area would separate out gas, oil and water, greatly reducing the need for truck traffic between the wells. The processed water would be drained to Boysen Reservoir.
This past fall EnCana opened its first CNG vehicle fueling station in the county, at the South Federal Boulevard Pit Stop Travel Center in Riverton. The CNG pump is the first one in Wyoming north of Interstate 80.