The Wyoming State Engineer’s Office (SEO), which in December began requesting information from coalbed methane (CBM) operators about wells producing only water, has canceled or suspended permits for 239 wells in the state’s Powder River Basin and is looking for more wells to shut down. In December the SEO targeted 296 wells in the Crazy Woman and Clear Creek drainages of northeastern Wyoming, issuing show cause letters to 10 natural gas operators. Two of the operators contested the recommended actions; permits for all but 57 of the wells were eventually canceled or suspended. The SEO said it has now targeted another 42 operators and 992 wells, all with a history of production of water with no attendant gas production over the past five years. CBM well permits issued by the SEO in that time frame contain a standard condition allowing for a review after five years. State Engineer Pat Tyrrell said the SEO effort is not an attempt to stop or hinder gas exploration, development or production — it is “an effort to make sure the operators are producing gas from the resultant water production.” A significant number of the targeted wells may have already been abandoned or are planned for abandonment, Tyrrell said. In December the SEO modified conditions for new CBM well permits, putting in place a July 2007 recommendation of the state’s Coalbed Methane Task Force requiring a threshold water-to-gas ratio of 10 barrels/Mcf in the first two to three years of water production. The current round of show cause letters requires operators to justify why their SEO well permits should not be canceled or suspended.

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