A proposal to drill up to 5,756 oil and natural gas wells in eastern Utah that could deliver millions of barrels of oil and natural gas, as well as up to 6.9 Tcf from a deep gas development, is being considered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The Utah Vernal Field Office has put out for comment a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on Newfield Exploration Co.'s proposed Monument Butte Project Area (MBPA) planned in Duchesne and Uintah counties. Newfield wants to drill wells over a 16-year period within the unit encompassing almost 120,000 acres south of Myton, UT.

About 170 miles of new roads, new pipelines and additional infrastructure are being considered for the project, which may yield more than 334.9 million bbl of oil, 540,669 MMcf of natural gas, and 10,085 million bbl of natural gas liquids (NGLs) from the Green River formation. About 6.9 Tcf of natural gas from the deep gas development also could be produced through 2035.

"This important project milestone underscores the BLM's commitment to facilitating oil and gas development using a balanced approach that supports energy production on public lands in Utah where its most appropriate while also safeguarding wildlife, livestock grazing and public health," said BLM-Utah State Director Juan Palma.

Surface ownership in the project area is mostly federally managed (87%), with 11% state managed and 2% private. Mineral interests are owned by the BLM (89%), the State of Utah (10%), and private interests (less than 1%). Lands with separate surface and mineral ownership, also known as split estate lands, comprise close to 18% of the land within the project.

Newfield plans to expand its ongoing development in Utah using waterfloods (i.e., enhanced oil recovery) and deep gas operations. New wells would be drilled as infill to the producing formations, which include the Green Mountain and Colton formations. The Green River oil wells would be drilled to a total depth of 4,500-6,500 feet; the proposed deep gas wells would drop below ground surface to 13,000-18,000 feet.

"The range of downhole well densities expected at this time is one well per 20 acres (i.e., middle member of the Green River Formation) to one well per 40 acres (i.e., middle and lower members of the Green River formation)," the DEIS said. Newfield plans to use directional drilling, along with multi-well pads, to limit the number of well pads or surface locations (i.e., surface density) to a maximum of one well pad/40 acres. Some well pad locations would host a single well and others may have multiple wells drilled from a single well pad.

There are several proposals within the DEIS, including a proposed action for development and three alternatives. Newfield's proposed plan is for:

  • 750 Green River oil wells, all of which could be converted into waterflood injection wells about three years after production begins;
  • 2,500 Green River oil wells on 20-acre downspacing that would be vertically, directionally or horizontally drilled from well pads;
  • 2,500 vertical deep gas wells on 40-acre surface and downhole spacing from new three-acre well pads built adjacent to the oil well pads;
  • About 243 miles of 100-foot-wide rights of way for new roads and pipeline installation;
  • Twenty new compressor stations for the deep gas development;
  • Expanding three Green River oil well compressor stations and one new station for associated gas;
  • One 50 MMcf/d centralized gas processing plant;
  • Seven new and six expanded water treatment and injection facilities;
  • Up to 12 produced oil and and water units;
  • One freshwater collector well; and
  • Six water pump stations.

Newfield now operates about 3,395 oil and gas wells within the MBPA. It proposes to drill associated wells at an average rate of 360 per year until the resource base is developed. "Under this drilling scenario, construction, drilling, and completion of up to 5,750 wells would occur for approximately 16 years," BLM said. "The anticipated life of an individual well is 20-30 years, and the anticipated time it would take for field abandonment and final reclamation is five years. Therefore, the anticipated life of project under the proposed action would be from 41-51 years."

Newfield said its 1Q2013 Uinta Basin production increased 10% from 4Q2012, with record drilling times in the Monument unit (see Shale Daily, April 25). Refining capacity expansions in April were under way in the Salt Lake City area, and additional markets were being tested for marketing oil production.

An analysis by NGI's Shale Daily earlier this year found that ExxonMobil Corp. was the largest leaseholder in the Uinta Basin with 260,000 net acres. The top five were rounded out by QEP Resources (257,000), Newfield (227,900), Anadarko Petroleum Corp. (189,000) and EP Energy (176,000).

Newfield’s net Uinta Basin sales have increased each quarter since 4Q2012, reaching an estimated 24,900 boe/d in 4Q2013. The company expects its net sales from the Uinta to rise 5% year over year in 2014.

A 45-day comment period for Newfield's DEIS closes on Feb. 4. Informational public open houses are to be held in Salt Lake City (Jan. 21), Roosevelt (Jan. 22) and Vernal (Jan. 23). More information on the DEIS also is available on the Vernal Field Office website. Contact BLM Vernal Field Office, Attention: Stephanie Howard, 170 S. 500 E, Vernal, UT 84078, or send an email to BLM_UT_Vernal_Comments@blm.gov. Howard may be contacted at (435) 781-4469.