State gas commission hearings on Denver-based Antero Resources' plan to increase the density of its horizontal drilling in Colorado's Garfield County near the Piceance Basin have been delayed from late this month to mid-January next year. A prehearing conference to decide procedural matters will still be held Tuesday.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), which is charged with reviewing Antero's plans, decided to scrap hearings set for Monday and Tuesday (Nov. 29-30) in favor of Jan. 13-14. Garfield County has already intervened in the case in response to residents who are concerned about the impact on their communities in the Silt Mesa and Peach Valley areas.

Earlier this year Garfield County officials asked the Colorado School of Public Health to do an assessment of earlier plans for additional drilling made public by Antero, and the conclusions were mixed, noting that there could be detriments and benefits from the exploration and production company's plans (see Daily GPI, Sept. 22).

Antero's preliminary plans drew pushback from several community groups, including the Battlement Mesa Service Association (a homeowners association), Battlement Mesa Concerned Citizens and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance because of the perceived close proximity of gas development to homes, recreational areas and schools.

The COGCC is reviewing plans for stepping up Antero's drilling from one well per 160 acres to one well per 10 acres initially within a 640-acre section. This means downhole spacing of the one well for every 10 acres when current regulations limit the density to one per 40 acres.

Antero emphasized that the horizontal drilling technology being employed can yield 20 wells or more per well pad, so the community is not faced with the prospect of a derrick every 10 acres.

Nevertheless, residents have urged county officials to oppose Antero's plans because of what they would bring in terms of added truck traffic through what are considered well populated neighborhoods. They also are fearful that the greater activity underground may cause a high likelihood of accidents and/or groundwater contamination. And still other have cited the pipeline rupture in San Bruno, CA, as a caution.

According to the company's latest statistics, Antero has 68,000 net acres of leasehold in the Piceance Basin on the western slope of Colorado. Antero began initial gas sales there in June 2006 and currently has 48 MMcf/d of gross operated production (36 MMcf/d net including nonoperated production).

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