Bankrupt methane farming company Luca Technologies is planning to walk away from its wells on federal lands in Wyoming without plugging them. The company and its subsidiaries have between four and five hundred wells on federal lands, and COO Brian Cree says it's unlikely there will be enough money to clean them up.
“Those wells will just be turned back over to the federal government, and the federal government will be in a position to use their resources to plug and abandon those wells," Cree says.
Luca Technologies, a Colorado-based biotechnology company focused on extracting natural gas from coal seams in Wyoming, has declared bankruptcy.
Luca began testing their “methane farming” method in the Powder River basin in 2006. Since then, they have faced regulatory and financial difficulties which have resulted in permitting delays, layoffs, and now, finally Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Methane farming generates natural gas by feeding nutrients to microbes in coal beds.
Federal land managers have rejected an application by a Colorado company to use bacteria to produce methane from northeast Wyoming coal beds.
The Gillette News-Record reported Thursday the Bureau of Land Management threatened to prosecute Luca Technologies Inc. for trespassing if it continued the work. The company says it will comply but disagrees with the decision and may sue.
The BLM acted after Luca refused to pay an additional $40,000 for the cost of processing the application, on top of $40,000 it paid previously.
A Colorado company expects to get regulatory approval soon so it can begin to exploit bacteria to revive hundreds of old natural gas wells in northeast Wyoming. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality is considering a draft permit for Luca Technologies Inc. to put substances underground to encourage the growth of bacteria. The bacteria are naturally present underground and live in water-saturated coal seams. The bacteria eat the coal and produce methane gas as a byproduct.