Frustrated landowners in Converse County sat down last week with a company that’s proposing to build a natural gas processing facility outside of Douglas to discuss alternative locations for the plant.
Crestwood Midstream Access’ plant would be situated in a largely agricultural area, and nearby ranchers have protested, saying it would be better to group it with existing industrial development.
But there are no land use regulations in Converse County, so rancher Art Nicholas proposed a trade: a parcel of his land south of the city in exchange for the site.
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.
Current regulations are inadequate for monitoring and controlling oil and gas development, according to a new report from a coalition of western resource councils. In particular, the report focuses on the potential problems surrounding treatment and disposal of produced water, the contaminated water that's pulled up along with oil in the drilling process.
A legislative committee killed a bill Tuesday that would have taxed natural gas flaring from oil wells.
When there isn’t pipeline or processing infrastructure available to move the natural gas, companies simply burn it. The draft bill would have required severance tax payments on gas flared more than 180 days after the well starts producing. Representative Michael Madden, one of two supporters of the bill, said the proposal wasn’t a tax increase, but rather the repeal of an exemption.
Douglas residents are concerned about emissions from a proposed natural gas processing plant on the outskirts of town. Texas-based Crestwood Midstream Partners’ Douglas facility would process 120 million cubic feet of raw natural gas per day. Residents wrote to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, worried about carbon dioxide and formaldehyde emissions, among other things.
Cole Anderson is in charge of Wyoming’s air quality permitting process. He says the DEQ has reviewed the company’s proposed emissions, and found them to meet state standards.
There are fewer companies flaring off natural gas today than there were six months ago. In March, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission had 65 flaring authorizations. Members of the Legislatures Minerals Committee were told by Commission Supervisor Grant Black that now there is about half that number. He also said that companies generally request flaring permits when a compressor is down or there is no pipeline to get the gas to market and they’re seeing much less of the latter.
The US Environmental Protection Agency has released a set of rules that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal and natural gas power plants. If finalized, the rules would be the first to set such a national standard. The rule caps carbon emissions from natural gas power plants at 1,000 pounds/megawatt hour and from coal power plants at 1,100 pounds.
More than 500 industry people gathered in Jackson this week for the 17th Annual Wyoming Oil and Gas Fair. Wyoming Public Radio’s energy and natural resources reporter, Stephanie Joyce was there, and she joins us now to talk about the event.
BOB BECK: So, what are the biggest issues on the mind of Wyoming’s oil and gas industry right now?
Natural gas’ reputation as a climate-friendly alternative to coal has been tarnished recently by concerns that methane—a potent greenhouse gas—is leaking in copious quantities as the fuel makes its way from the ground to the consumer. A study released Monday provides the first on-the-ground measurements of methane leaks at hydraulically fractured natural gas well sites, and they're not as bad as some had feared.
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.
The Energy Information Administration says that in the 237 years since the adoption of the Declaration of Independence the U.S. has gone from using primarily renewable resources like wood and water to using fossil fuels.
Statistician at the EIA, Tyson Brown, says he compiled the brief just for fun, but says it’s still enlightening to look at the long-term changes.
As demand for coal has dropped domestically, producers have turned to exports abroad as a way to make up for market losses at home. 2012 was a record year for coal exports out of the US.
The demand for coal in China and other Asian markets, has raised hopes for coal producers in the Powder River Basin. They’ve helped develop plans for expanded port facilities in the Northwestern US and some coal companies, including Arch Coal, have invested money in the proposed ports.
An energy group says a recently released report overstated issues of water use by the oil and gas industry. The Western Organization of Resource Councils released the report last month and said regulators need to consider the quantity of water the energy industry uses, in addition to the quality.
An advocacy group is warning that fracking could cause air pollution and other problems in national parks.
Sharon Mader with the National Parks Conservation Association says they’re concerned that ozone from gas development in Sublette County could spread to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. She says that hasn’t happened yet, but they’re worried about the future.
A new study conducted by the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University reports that as more EPA regulations go into effect, natural gas is likely to become even more attractive to utilities than coal.
Co-author of the study, Professor Lincoln Pratson, says that one reason coal will become less desired is the expensive emission controls the coal plants will have to install.
The only pollutant that natural gas plants produce that the EPA regulates are NOx emissions. NOx stands for pollutants which contain NO and NO2, gases formed during combustion.
We recently reported that the federal government – and consequently Wyoming – might be getting shortchanged when it comes to royalty payments on coal going overseas. Turns out, the government is missing out on royalties in other ways, too. Wyoming Public Radio’s Irina Zhorov reports that right here in Wyoming, companies are quite literally burning up both federal and state royalty money when they flare natural gas.
Lower Valley Energy, a utility company, and the Department of Environmental Quality have entered the settlement process over a non-compliant part at their natural gas compressor station in Sublette County. The DEQ discovered the infraction during a routine inspection last October, and issued a notice of violation this January. According to their permit, the station is supposed to be using an emissions control device but they’re using a boiler to route natural gas emissions.
Four people have been hurt in a flash fire at a ConocoPhillips natural gas processing plant in Fremont County.
ConocoPhillips spokesman Jim Lowry says the flash fire occurred at the Lost Cabin plant about 8:30 a.m. today/Wednesday while contract workers were doing maintenance on part of the plant.
Lowry says the brief fire went out on its own.
Fremont County Sheriff's Capt. Dave Good says two of the people who were hurt received what he described as "pretty severe" injuries. They were transported to hospitals in the region, including a burn center in Greeley, Colo.
The U-S Geological Survey released a study examining how coalbed natural gas production affects water quality in nearby streams and rivers. Wyoming Public Radio’s Willow Belden spoke with Melanie Clark, the author of the report.
Governor Matt Mead hopes to move forward in finding a new Oil and Gas Supervisor. The governor accepted the resignation of former Supervisor Tom Doll after Doll said unflattering things about those affected by water contamination in Pavillion.
Mead Spokesman Renny MacKay says the governor will soon visit with the Oil and Gas Commission to determine how to go about a search.
“He does want to work quickly on this but he says it’s most important to be thorough. And so he’s not going to rush the process, but he does want it to move along quickly.”
Two Wyoming conversation groups have joined others in suing to protect the Fortification Creek area of the Powder River Basin from natural gas development.
The Wyoming Outdoor Council and Powder River Basic Resource Council complain that the Bureau of Land Management approved a plan to allow coalbed methane development in an area that was previously protected from energy development.
Retired B-L-M Wildlife Biologist Larry Gerard says the move surprised him because the area is filled with wildlife.
The Lincoln County Commissioners are backing True Oil L-L-C proposal to drill two gas wells in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. One well would be located on a well pad where oil development has already occurred, the second would be a new well.
Lincoln County Commission Chairman Kent Connelly says the company plans to use new technology to recover the gas, and that’s why they support the plan.
“With the technology change in drilling in there, you can do this; it’s not a really invasive approach that they are talking about doing.”
Wyoming's top oil and gas regulator says the companies involved in a natural gas well blowout in eastern Wyoming last month won't face any fines. Tom Doll, the state's oil and gas supervisor, tells the Casper Star-Tribune that well owner Chesapeake Energy Corp. and drill rig owner Trinidad Drilling Ltd. won't be cited for the blowout. The mishap vented up to 2 million cubic feet of explosive gas and 31,500 gallons of drilling fluid into the air and around the drill site near Douglas.
A natural gas leak 10 miles northeast of Douglas has caused dozens of residents to evacuate their homes.
The natural gas site, operated by Cheasapeake Energy, began leaking gas around 4pm yesterday, and by last night, Chesapeake official John Dill says area residents were notified that they should evacuate.
"We contacted approximately 67 residents in homes in about a 2.5 mile radius of this location, and asked them to consider a voluntary evacuation to area hotels, which is going to be paid for by the company," says Dill.
The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release some new air pollution regulations surrounding natural gas development. Earthjustice Attorney Robin Cooley saysit’s been 25 years since the E-P-A last evaluated standards and the new ones are overdue. She says the industry is much different than it used to be.
"We know that the current rules are inadequate. They don't protect public health. The pollution problems are mounting by the day and expanding into new areas."