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Colorado's DJ Basin Sees Resurgence of Activity

Somewhat shunned following the 2014 global oil price crash, Colorado's Denver-Julesburg (DJ) Basin seems to be on everyone's dance card again, being wooed by Wall Street, industry and government representatives looking at potential oil and natural gas growth areas.

In the wake of bullish reports from analysts like KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc., spokespersons for both the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (COGA) and the Colorado Oil/Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) echoed the renewed interest in the DJ Basin centered on Weld County, northeast of Denver.

"Colorado has seen around 35 active rigs, plus or minus, for the past several months, a clear uptick over last year," said the COGA spokesperson, noting that current COGCC statistics support the outlook for growth in the state's oil and gas activity.

According to current COGCC data, Colorado's oil production through November was 100.4 million bbls, and 91.1 million bbls were produced in Weld County in the DJ. Comparative statistics through November in the previous year showed statewide production at 109 million bbls with Weld accounting for 96 million bbls of the total.

For combined natural gas and coalbed methane, the 2017 (through November) totals were 1.35 Tcf statewide and 535 Bcf in Weld, compared to the same 2016 period totals of 1.54 Tcf and 587 Bcf, respectively.

"Weld County in the DJ Basin continues to be the most active county," a COGCC spokesperson  told NGI, noting that the agency's latest monthly staff report for December shows permit activity by county and overall up considerably compared to 2016 with Weld leading the way. As of Dec. 8, Colorado had 55,062 active wells and 23,708 were in Weld. Through November applications for drilling permits far exceeded the annual total for the past six years at 5,313, compared to 3,253 the previous year and 4,691 back in 2011.

As local news media in Denver have reported, analysts like KeyBanc Capital's Chris Smith are touting the resurgence based on the flurry of consolidations and infrastructure build-outs tied to the DJ Basin that represent several billions of dollars of investment. Stevens attributes the burst to higher commodity prices stirring more confidence in operators.

Reports in NGI's Shale Daily support this contention that operators are combining DJ assets as evidenced earlier this month with Bill Barrett Corp. announcing that it plans to merge with Fifth Creek Energy Co. in a $649 million deal.

A deal announced in November linking SandRidge Energy Inc.with Bonanza Creek Energy Inc. combining more than 630,000 net acres, mostly across the Rockies and Midcontinent, died in late December, shot down by major stockholders.

Also in November, SRC Energy Inc. divulged plans to buy drilling rights from Noble Energy Inc. for $568 million. Houston-based Noble Energy Inc. agreed to take $608 million from SRC Energy Inc. for a package of natural gas-heavy assets in the DJ, including a 30,200 net acre leasehold in Weld, producing about 4,100 boe/d. SRC works in the DJ’s Wattenberg field almost exclusively.

Earlier in 2017, PDC Energy Inc. struck a deal to buy assets from Bayswater Exploration & Production LLC for about $210 million. PDC Energy sought 8,300 net acres for $210 million and swap other land in two separate deals to block up its core DJ position in Weld.

In the DJ midstream space, Black Diamond Gathering LLC, a joint venture formed by Noble Midstream Partners LP and Greenfield Midstream LLC, has agreed to pay $625 million for Saddle Butte Rockies Midstream LLC and affiliates for $625 million.

Saddle Butte assets include a large-scale integrated crude oil gathering system in the DJ Basin, consisting of 160 miles of pipeline in operation, 300,000 b/d of delivery capacity and approximately 210,000 barrels of crude oil storage capacity.

Separately, DCP Midstream, a joint venture between Phillips 66 and Enbridge, is spending as much as $795 million on facilities that will handle gas from DJ Basin wells.

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