Idaho on verge of natural gas production

Drilling gets the go-ahead from the state, and Alta Mesa is looking to build a pipeline.

rbarker@idahostatesman.comJuly 13, 2013 

Drilling on two petroleum wells north of New Plymouth is expected to begin "any day."

"There's equipment on the site now," said Suzanne Budge, executive director of the Idaho Petroleum Council.

Alta Mesa, a partner of Snake River Oil and Gas, has been working on permits for a seven- to 10-mile pipeline that would connect existing and new wells in Payette County to the pipeline near Idaho Power Co.'s Langley Gulch natural gas plant near New Plymouth.

"We could turn gas on to serve consumers this year," Budge said.

The Idaho Department of Lands approved two permits to Alta Mesa Services to drill June 11 and June 27. The agency is considering a third drilling permit.

Alta Mesa, part of Alta Mesa Holdings of Houston, is a partner of Snake River Oil and Gas that bought existing wells drilled by Bridge Resources near New Plymouth.

Bridge Resources discovered natural gas and condensate, a mix of petroleum liquids, in 2010 in the so-called Willow Hamilton fields in Payette County. The condensate, which is nearly pure enough to use as jet fuel, is worth even more than the natural gas.

Condensate captured during testing earlier this year was sold to the refinery in Salt Lake City, Budge said. "That's what makes this play go."

The Treasure Valley's gas discovery is in a sedimentary sand deposit and not shale; drillers elsewhere have accessed the latter using a process of horizontal hydraulic fracturing or "fracking." The controversial process that has open millions of acres of the nation to natural gas production will not be used here, Budge said.

Drillers will use well treatment, a long-established process of sending liquids and sand down a well under high pressure to enhance gas flows.

The Idaho Legislature approved oil and gas rules in 2012 and this year changed the makeup of the Idaho Oil and Gas Commission, which used to consist of the members of the Idaho Land Board. The new panel, appointed earlier this week by Gov. Butch Otter, includes members representing different stakeholders.

The Idaho Department of Lands remains the administrative agency responsible for supporting the commission's work and implementing rules and statutes related to oil and gas exploration and production.

Rocky Barker: 377-6484

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