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Utah Gas Output Surpasses 1 Bcf/d Mark

Utah's natural gas production surpassed the 1 Bcf/d mark in 2007, up 8% or almost 79,500 Mcf/d from 2006, the state's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported last week.

At the end of 2007, 4,684 wells were in operation, with total flow at 385.16 Bcf, or 1.06 Bcf/d. The year-end output was 29 Bcf higher than at the end of 2006. Uintah County, home to most of the prolific Uinta Basin, produced the most gas, followed by Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, San Juan and Summit counties.

DNR's Gil Hunt, associate director for oil and gas, said Utah's operators have "drilled record numbers of wells in the state the last few years. Without it, production numbers would continue to decline as demand continues to increase."

Anadarko Petroleum Corp. in March stepped up its capital spending for 2008, partly on success from its emerging gas play in the Greater Natural Buttes area of northeastern Utah (see NGI, March 31). Also this year EOG Resources Inc. upped its potential reserve recovery from the Uinta Basin by 800 Bcfe following positive results from using horizontal drilling techniques (see NGI, March 3a). EOG at the end of 2007 had estimated it had 915 Bcfe of proved reserves in the Uinta Basin with additional net reserve potential of 1,750 Bcfe.

The Utah Geological Survey is conducting a multi-year geologic assessment of the state's gas resources to more fully understand the resource base and to encourage exploration for new reserves. Utah has produced natural gas since 1891, but low prices, a lack of a national market for Rocky Mountain gas and expensive drilling resulted in slow development of the state's gas resources. However, new pipeline infrastructure and improved technology have spurred increased development of both oil and gas reserves in Utah.

Most of Utah's gas reserves and future potential is in the Uinta Basin in the northeastern part of the state. Gas plays in the Uinta Basin include the Tertiary Uinta, Wasatch (Coton) and North Horn formations; the Mesaverde coalbed methane (CBM), the Mancos Shale, Ferron Sandstone CBM, Cretaceous Dakota, Cedar Mountain and Jurassic sandstones. Reserves also are abundant in the Paradox Basin in the southeastern corner of Utah (see NGI, July 30, 2007).

Oil production last year in Utah also grew to its highest annual volumes since 1997, according to DNR. Oil output in 2007 was 19.5 million bbl. The state's highest oil production occurred in 1985 when production topped 41 million bbl of crude. Duchesne County was the top oil producer with more than 7.5 million bbl, followed by Uintah County at nearly 5.5 million bbl. There were 2,803 oil wells operating in the state last year.

A moratorium on oil shale development would be lifted in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming under a bill introduced by Senate Republicans earlier this month (see NGI, May 5). According to research, the amount of oil trapped in shale in western Colorado, Utah and southwestern Wyoming is estimated to be 1-1.8 trillion bbl, or about three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia (see NGI, April 21). Of that amount, about 800 billion bbl is considered recoverable.

The Utah legislature may be amenable to more energy development. Earlier this year the Utah Senate and House approved legislation that expressed opposition to environmental group efforts to place more than nine million acres of public lands in the state off limits to development of oil and gas, coal, oil shale and other natural resources (see NGI, March 3b).

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