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BLM Seeking Input on Noble's Nevada Oil/Gas Plans

The U.S. Department of Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is seeking public comments through April 23 on Noble Energy’s plans to drill a number of new oil wells as part of the extensive oil/gas leases it holds in northeast Nevada. BLM's work is part of what it designates as the Mary's River Oil/Gas Exploration Project environmental assessment (EA).

At a Houston energy forum last month, Houston-based Noble CFO Ken Fisher talked about the company's interest in northeast Nevada, stressing the tight oil prospects (see Shale Daily, March 27). Noble has 330,000 gross acres in Nevada, which it estimates may hold the potential for 1.3 billion boe of gross resources.

BLM said Noble's proposed project would involve gas exploration drilling in the Tabor Flats area northeast of Elko, NV, and four miles northwest of the town of Wells.

"Noble proposes to drill and complete a maximum of 20 wells on public and private lands," BLM said. "The project could last more than two years, and hydraulic fracturing [fracking] would be used in the proposed exploration drilling." Construction for the project would be focused on drill pads and new roads as well as maintenance or upgrades of existing roads.

The project area was described by BLM as including 39,445 acres, including 20,622 acres on public lands, or about half of the project. About 7%, or 2,606 acres, of private lands for which BLM manages the subsurface mineral rights are involved separately. Other private lands and minerals account for 41% of the project acreage, or 16,220 acres.

Noble anticipates that 12 wells could produce up to 250 b/d of oil and that eight wells could produce up to 100 b/d of oil. Noble said a small amount of natural gas may be produced with the oil, and it will be used to fuel production equipment; excess gas is to be flared.

BLM said the proposed Noble operations will comply with all applicable federal onshore oil/gas orders and do not include any wild horse areas. The EA and Noble surface-use plan are available on BLM's website.

At the industry forum, Fisher said Noble holds a big position in Nevada, "so if it would work, it would add another core area to our portfolio. We drilled a couple of wells last year, and we will do some testing this year.”

After producing about 4,000,000 bbl of oil back in 1990, the state of Nevada has seen a drastic decline, with less than 335,600 bbl coming out of the state in 2013, according to Nevada Commission on Mineral Resources data.

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