Letters from the West

Natural gas well supplies New Plymouth

Bidders for Alta Mesa Idaho, left, and Trendwell West compete for 17,000 acres of mineral leases on April 17, 2014.
Bidders for Alta Mesa Idaho, left, and Trendwell West compete for 17,000 acres of mineral leases on April 17, 2014. rbarker@idahostatesman.com

Idaho has officially become a natural gas-producing state, but it is not time to get excited yet.

A shallow gas well west of New Plymouth now supplies resident through a unique connection with Intermountain Gas, Alta Mesa Idaho officials said.

The well drilled in 2010 by Bridge Resources and later purchased by Alta Mesa might have been capped under normal conditions, its production is so low. But since it is "dry" gas that does not need major processing before going into the pipeline, Alta Mesa worked with Intermountain Gas to tie the first commercial gas well in Idaho directly to local homes.

"This is a unique project and an exciting step toward full commercial production of natural gas in Idaho," said John Foster, a spokesman for Alta Mesa. "Intermountain Gas deserves high praise for making it happen, and for having the vision to support this new Idaho industry."

Since the production is low, Intermountain still brings in gas in its distribution system from outside sources to meet New Plymouth's needs. Alta Mesa officials said that over the winter, they could tell when the high school fired up its boiler because it pulled enough gas to show changes in pressure at the well head.

The state owns the mineral rights and will get royalties from the well.

Alta Mesa is one of two companies drilling for natural gas in Idaho. Trendwell West drilled a well in Canyon County and both companies recently bid on 150 tracts in Ada, Canyon, Gem, Owyhee, Payette and Washington counties.

More than 17,700 acres of state-owned lands and minerals were auctioned at an average bid of $76 per acre. Alta Mesa is expected to drill more wells in Payette County this summer.

Alta Mesa is also constructing a new natural gas and hydrocarbon treatment facility near New Plymouth. It has applied to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality for an air pollution permit and is taking comments through June 6. The facility will remove liquids and other materials from the gas before it goes on to the Williams pipeline.