Battlement Mesa: Ursa Resources re-thinking well pad location

Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation
Directional drilling from one well site via the National Science Foundation

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dennis Webb):

The company believes it can do without a pad that would be located adjacent to Battlement Mesa’s golf course.

Cutting the pad would reduce to four the total number of pads Ursa would drill from within the community of several thousand people. Antero Resources earlier had proposed drilling from 10 pads within the community. Ursa, which subsequently bought Antero’s local assets, has worked to cut the number of pads needed, in part through directional drilling from pads outside the residential development’s borders.

Ursa has Garfield County and state approvals to drill from two pads so far in Battlement Mesa and plans to begin drilling this year. It also has begun the process of seeking approvals for additional pads.

Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa, said Ursa will eliminate the pad by the golf course from its plans if it can get approvals for two additional pads it is proposing, and for a wastewater injection well for one of them.

This week, it dropped efforts to obtain approvals for the injection well close to the community’s water intake on the Colorado River. The proximity and the potential for impacts from spills drew objections from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and county planning staff.

Simpson said the pad now proposed is downstream from the water intake and 2,000 feet from the river. He said changing the location probably will mean extra truck traffic for a while because Ursa doesn’t have approval yet and may not be able to begin injecting wastewater until next year. Trucks would have to haul wastewater out of Battlement Mesa in the meantime. Reducing truck traffic is a key reason Ursa wants to have an injection well.

If the injection well is approved, that would be one less reason for Ursa to need the pad near the golf course.

Simpson said the two additional pads Ursa is pursuing are now planned to be larger, which will allow for more wellheads.

“We think this is a big win for everybody except for the people that don’t want you in (Battlement Mesa) regardless of what you do,” he said.

Dave Devanney of the group Battlement Concerned Citizens, said he’s a bit conflicted on how to react to the latest Ursa developments.

“As somebody said recently, name your poison. Do you want truck traffic or do you want injection wells? The citizens of Battlement Mesa don’t want either,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ursa Resources held a meeting with Battlement Mesa residents yesterday. Here’s a report from Alex Zorn writing for The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent. Here’s an excerpt:

The meeting, one of Ursa’s regular sessions with residents, came a day after a zoning change proposed on Ursa’s behalf was withdrawn.

Thursday’s meeting lasted nearly two hours, and Ursa representatives spent nearly the entire time fielding questions from concerned residents.

A conversation that began as an outline for development ended with residents demanding to know if Ursa will leave the community in better shape than they found it.

“Do you see any benefit for the Battlement Mesa citizens from oil and gas?” asked one audience member.

Ursa owns mineral rights under the 5,000-person community and last year won Garfield County and state approval to drill for natural gas inside the Planned Unit Development. Wednesday, a request to place an injection well to dispose of wastewater within the PUD was pulled back after county staff urged rejection.

The state Department of Public Health and Environment earlier urged rejection because the well would be within about 600 feet of the municipal water intake.

The Planning Commission granted a continuance so that Battlement Mesa Partners, which requested the zoning change for Ursa’s natural gas operations, can alter its plan. The hearing was moved to the March 8 Planning Commission meeting.

“The reason for last night’s continuance is to allow us to present all of the changes we’ve made, which will allow us to move the injection well from the BMC B Pad to the BMC A Pad,” Ursa Resources Operations Superintendent Matt Honeycutt said. “We wanted to get it right, and part of that was by talking with many of you.”

Moving the injection well from the B Pad to A Pad will eliminate the threat of any runoff leaking into the Colorado River and contaminating the water supply, he said.

Instead of placing the injection well upriver from the intake, which it would be in the B Pad, Ursa will seek to place the injection well downriver at the BMC A Pad.

Furthermore, he said, shifting focus to the A Pad will eliminate the impact to the area surrounding the B Pad, which will reduce the area of the project by nearly 50 percent. Rather than rezoning 37 acres along the north end of the community by the north end of the Colorado River, the new plan will include closer to 22 acres.

The plan will still be to drill 24 wells in the BMC B Pad, but having an injection well in the community will greatly reduce truck traffic, according to Honeycutt.

Construction will begin for the B Pad on Feb. 21, the company said, with as many as 14 wells to be located there.

Now, 100 wells are in operation out of approximately 200 wells that Ursa plans to drill in Battlement Mesa, though the company has not yet begun to drill within the PUD, representatives said.

Drilling for a pipeline has begun, with 15 of 24 wells already in operation. Drilling is expected to be completed by March 23. Once the drilling is completed there, Ursa will begin drilling at the D Pad.

One resident was frustrated, asking, “Of all of this land, how come you have to do this right here?”

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