Small well near Payette means Idaho is now a gas-producing state

Alta Mesa is supplying New Plymouth through Intermountain's pipeline, but the gas isn't plentiful.


0514 biz gas well.JPG

The well takes up little room in Payette County, but a fenced-off space of land is required around it for safety reasons.


Alta Mesa says its gas well is the first to produce in Idaho in a century and the first of many wells to come.

According to Alta Mesa President and CEO Hal Chappelle, the supply agreement is unique. Alta Mesa has hundreds of gas wells drilled across the country, but the one in New Plymouth is the only one in which the company has a direct line to the gas pipeline.

"It's very rare when a utility company would source its gas directly from a producer," Chappelle said.

He said the well, known as 1-17, is dry, which means there is little Alta Mesa has to do to treat the gas. The location of the well was also perfect to hook it up to Intermountain's pipeline and feed it directly to customers in New Plymouth.

The gas well is shallow, about 1,900 feet below the surface.

"This is the first commercial well," Chappelle said. "This is the first sustained production in the state, that we can see, in 100 years."

The natural gas is not very plentiful, comparatively speaking, Chappelle said. Some days it doesn't produce enough for customers' needs, said Scott Madison, general manager for Intermountain Gas in Idaho. Intermountain makes up the difference through the Northwest Pipeline, which runs from Canada to San Juan, Calif. It covers about 3,900 miles.

Bob Hatfield, who drilled the well, said he can monitor its usage and know when a school fires up an oven for lunch or a local truck stop turns on its heat.

Alta Mesa purchased wells that its predecessor, Bridge Resources, drilled before going bankrupt. Alta Mesa has also drilled some wells of its own and plans to drill five more in the county. These wells will be hooked to a new flow line that will make its way toward a gas treatment plant on U.S. 30 near Interstate 84. The plant will take out any impurities to get it ready for commercial use.

Chappelle said the company has performed seismic testing on about 70 square miles of the county. After testing, Alta Mesa will submit permits to the state and county governments to drill wells where it believes the best outcome will occur.

In addition to the permits needed to drill more wells, Chappelle said the most important thing Alta Mesa is working on right now is laying the pipeline to the wells.

Once well 1-17 quits producing, users will rely again on the Northwest Pipeline. There's no way to know for sure when the well will run out - it could be a few years or 10. Until then, Madison said, it's exciting that natural resources in Idaho are supplying the town of New Plymouth.

Madison said having the gas from Alta Mesa's well supply New Plymouth will not affect the customers in any way. Chappelle compared it to a power company that might use electricity generated in the Columbia River or in Langley Gulch; the end result is the same for customers who just have to switch on the light.

"We're supportive of the development in the industry," Madison said. "We're in the gas business. We think it's important to support and develop the industry. It's creating jobs and revenue for the community."

The mineral rights for 1-17 are owned by the state, and royalty payments for the gas well will begin to come in, Chappelle said. The state might receive 12 percent to 15 percent from the royalties, Hatfield said.

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