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Wyoming's Bureau of Land Management will offer 84,015 acres of federal land in Wyoming in an oral oil and gas lease auction on Tuesday, June 6, at the Holiday Inn in Cheyenne. The sale includes a total of 128 parcels, including 13 parcels totaling 12,495 acres in the Bridger Teton National Forest and two parcels totaling 1,526 acres in the Shoshone National Forest. "Mineral resources on Wyoming public lands play a key role in meeting energy demands in the Rocky Mountain Region. With one-third of the nation's oil and gas production coming from the public lands, oil and gas leasing helps increase domestic production of clean-burning natural gas and other mineral resources," said Wyoming BLM State Director Bob Bennett. Oil and gas operations on BLM-administered lands in Wyoming produced 29.8 million bbl of oil and 1.4 Tcf of gas in 2005. About 64% of the homes in Wyoming are heated with natural gas. The auction rules call for a $2 per acre minimum bid in bonuses on any parcel. This means a buyer will pay the bid price for the right to obtain the federal lease, in addition to a standard $1.50 per acre rental on the lease. BLM also will charge winning bidders $130 per parcel to help cover administrative costs. If the lease becomes producing, the federal government will collect a royalty on production. Last year, $799.2 million in royalties were collected and shared equally with Wyoming. Leases are for a primary term of 10 years, and will be continued as long thereafter as oil or gas is produced in paying quantities. The complete list of parcels is available on the Wyoming BLM web site at:

WPS Resources Corp. received verbal approval from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) to proceed with the $288 million acquisition of the Minnesota natural gas distribution operations of Aquila. WPS completed the $315 million acquisition of gas distribution operations serving 161,000 customers in Michigan from Aquila in April. The verbal approval from MPUC of the Minnesota purchase will be followed by a written order before the approval is final. "Assuming there are no surprises in the final written order, we believe we will be ready to close the transaction in a relatively short time frame," said Phil Mikulsky, WPS executive vice president of development. WPS CEO Larry Weyers called the Aquila assets "a great strategic fit with our existing operations given the geographic and operational profile of the combined asset base." Combined with the acquired Michigan assets, WPS will serve roughly 469,000 gas customers through its regulated utilities with annual natural gas throughput of 118.6 Bcf. WPS already serves more than 476,000 electric customers through its regulated electric utilities.

The National Energy Board (NEB) said Friday that is has received an application from Emera Brunswick Pipeline Co. for construction of a 30-inch diameter, 90-mile gas pipeline from the Canaport LNG terminal planned by Irving Oil and Repsol in Saint John, NB, to a connection with the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline near the international border near St. Stephen. If the application is complete, the NEB will issue a hearing order that will provide more information about its process, including dates and the location of the public hearing. Earlier this month, Emera, which owns Nova Scotia Power, Bangor Hydro-Electric and a 12.92% stake in Maritimes & Northeast, said it will invest $350 million to build the pipeline, which will be capable of carrying 850 MMcf/d of regasified LNG. Construction of both a Maritimes expansion and the Brunswick lateral is expected to be completed by late 2008.

Joining the current push in the utility industry to streamline its meter reading operations, Portland, OR-based Northwest Natural Gas Co. began installing 60,000 smart metering devices allowing meter-reading employees to collect data remotely from their vehicles while driving by customers' premises. It's a $3.8 million initial phase to a utilitywide program that eventually will outfit all of the utility's 235,000 customers with gas meters with the cell-phone size devices. The conversion in one county (Clark) in south-central Washington state, across the Columbia River from Portland, should be completed by November, Northwest Natural officials said. Produced by Spokane, WA-based Itron Inc., the devices are radio transmitters that will send the meter readings data to hand-held mobile receivers that Northwest Natural's meter-reading employees will use to collect each customer's data. Eventually, the reading will be done more quickly with fewer employees, Northwest Natural said.

With the current production decline rates in the Gulf of Mexico and restricted access to a number of mineral-rich regions across the U.S., producers are having to look in untraditional places to keep up with the country's thirst for natural gas. Last week, Ladera Ranch, CA-based Victory Energy Corp. said it has secured participation in a joint venture for the Mesa Prospect in New Mexico with Eldorado Exploration. Located in Roosevelt County, NM, the prospect has a proposed drill depth of 7000 feet to target the Cisco Carbonate Reef, Canyon Carbonate Reef, Strawn Sands, and the Montoya Dolomite. The Mesa prospect is on a Passive Induced Polarization (PIP) identified Pennsylvanian Carbonate Reef that is over 25,000 acres in size. The joint venture has over 11,000 net acres under lease over the heart of the geological structure. The publicly-traded acquisition and development company said the possible reserves under the lease could be over 1 Tcf of recoverable natural gas, which at the current price of $6/Mcf would equate to a possible $6 billion value of production for the prospect.

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