DOE: Access Restrictions Found in 68% of Green River Basin

Nearly 68% of the Greater Green River Basin in Wyoming and Colorado, holding an estimated 79 Tcf, is either closed to development or under significant access restrictions, according to an in-depth report by the U.S. Department of Energy. The basin, one of many to be studied tract-by-tract, contains the largest amount of estimated reserves in the Rockies.

The 94-page report, completed for DOE by Advanced Resources International, covers almost 29 million acres of land, of which more than 16 million are under federal ownership. Done in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, the study is part of a larger project to analyze natural gas resources under federal lands in the Rocky Mountain region. The Greater Green River Basin is located primarily in southwestern Wyoming with portions extending into Colorado and to a less extent, into Utah.

Using computerized geographic information system (GIS) studies, analysts examined virtually every township tract in the study area, each a six-by-six square. Any condition limiting exploration and development was identified, including lease stipulations and current restrictions. Stipulations, which are conditions that are issued for a lease, change from time-to-time, and the study is a "snapshot" in time of conditions present within the study area.

Undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas resource data from 29 discrete resource plays were obtained for the study, mostly from the U.S. Geological Survey's 1995 national oil and gas assessment. Data was supplemented by additional studies by Advanced Resources and the Wyoming Geologic Survey.

The study found the following:

Slightly more than two-thirds of the technically recoverable federal natural gas resources in the study area are either closed to development or available with restrictions;

About 30% of the potential federal resources are off limits, with about 1% underlying resources closed by statute, national parks or wilderness areas;

Leasing stipulations restrict another 38% of the federal natural gas resource, and more than 90% of those stipulations are because of timing limits of three to nine months, such as critical winter habitat for big game or nesting periods;

The remaining 32% are subject to standard lease terms.

In rebuttal to the study, The Wilderness Society said last week that the study is "biased, misleading and an unfortunate disservice to policy makers who need facts upon which to base decisions about our nation's energy policies."

Dave Alberswerth, of the Society's Bureau of Land Management Program, called the report a "weapon in the accelerating war on wildlife and protected Western lands being waged by the oil and gas industry and its allies in the Bush Administration." He said a careful reading of the report shows that nearly 80% of natural gas on federal lands in the Green River Basin are available for development. "Another problem with the report is that it misrepresents the total amount of gas that would be developed in the area even if there were no environmental safeguards."

The complete study includes results and data from the analysis and an interactive map on a township-by-township basis. For a copy, visit the web site at www.fe.doe.gov/oil_gas/reports/fla/.

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