oil and gas drilling has stalled in most parts of the domestic United
States, Colorado is setting new records this year in the number
of wells drilled as the Rocky Mountain region becomes a hotbed of
producing well count is expected to top 25,000 wells by the end
of this year with total value surpassing
there are about 1,400 more wells operating in Colorado than at the
same time last year, officials said. In fact, the state now has
more drilling rigs operating than at anytime since 1986.
September of this year, 24,808 wells were producing oil and gas,
said Rich Griebling, director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation
same period last year, the well count totaled 23,352. It reached
22,742 at the same time in 2001, he said.
said he expects the year to finish out with about 25,000 active
been close to that for the number of active wells," he said. "It's
an all-time record."
total value of drilling for the state was $3.05 billion set in 2001.
the wells are natural gas -- about 83 percent -- while 17 percent
are oil wells.
the wells are drilled for both oil and gas, so it's like pulling
hairs," he said.
indications are that the state will issue about 2,500 well permits
in 2004, he said. The number of new permits for wells for 2003 will
be about 2,200. The all-time high of 2,300 permits was set in 1981.
to 1999, the number of permits issued annually rose about 1,000
each year, according to Griebling. Then it climbed to about 1,500
more each year. In the last three years, it has risen by about 2,000
or more permits per year.
for Rocky Mountain gas are expanding with the addition of new pipelines
from the area.
a major new pipeline to carry Rocky Mountain gas to the West Coast
opened, enabling gas producers to get better prices outside the
region. Another pipeline to carry gas eastward is now under development.
In the past, Rocky Mountain gas usually stayed in the region for
estimated 90 percent of all new power plants being fueled by natural
gas, demand for gas is expected to grow dramatically in coming years.
Demand is outpacing the production from domestic suppliers, and
that imbalance has pushed Western gas into the forefront of production.
gas production outside of the Rocky Mountains has either remained
flat or declined in the past few years -- the region is the only
place in the United States where natural gas production is increasing,
according to Griebling.
past 20 years, natural gas production in the Rocky Mountain West
has climbed 162 percent. Meanwhile, production in the historically
rich gas areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and the offshore Gulf
Coast has fallen by 29 percent.
gas fields in the South are depleted, the West now has the distinction
of the largest gas reserves of any region in the domestic United
the West consisting of Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming
now has 41 percent of the proven and potential gas reserves in the
continental United States, according to the National Petroleum Council.
administration has launched several initiatives recently to open
gas-rich federal lands in the West and speed approval of natural
gas leasing and drilling here. The energy industry has claimed that
environmental obstructionism has prevented access to these lands.
House recently formed the Rocky Mountain Energy Council, a group
of officials charged with streamlining energy permitting decisions
in the West.