Pipeline holds promise

A proposal to construct a 330-mile natural gas pipeline through the heart of Moffat County has generated significant interest in the potential economic impacts, even though it is only in the beginning stages.

Entrega Gas Pipeline Inc. plans to file an application with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to construct a pipeline to improve access to U.S. natural gas markets.

The line will travel through four Colorado and four Wyoming counties starting at a hub southwest of Meeker and ending at the "Cheyenne Hub," just south of Cheyenne, Wyo.

Company officials say the line will follow the same path through Moffat County as an existing pipeline as much as possible. At this point, that includes 95 percent of the proposed route.

Aside from the economic benefits of the construction and management process, city and county officials say there's a need for a way to transport the great reserves of natural gas out of Moffat County.

"Natural gas is only produced in certain areas and we've got to be able to transport it," Moffat County Natural Resources Director Jeff Comstock said.

A pipeline is the only effective way to transport natural gas.

There are several identified natural gas reserves in the Rocky Mountain region. Portions of the large Uinta-Piceance Basin and Green River Basin are in Moffat County.

"The United States is thirsty for natural gas and that's not going to change," Craig Mayor Dave DeRose said. "We have an abundance in this area, we just can't transport it."

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 26 percent of the U.S. gas reserves are located in the Rocky Mountain region. It is estimated that 209 trillion cubic feet of resources are available.

Pace Global Energy Services estimates that the Rocky Mountain region could produce up to 8 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day (bcf/d) and 11 bcf/d by 2010.

Current pipeline capacity is about 5.2 bcf/d.

The proposed pipeline, when fully operational, could add approximately 2 bcf/d of transport capacity.

"The transport of natural gas is critical across the country so the rest of the nation can use the resources," Comstock said.

The project would include three or four compressor stations.

The pipeline is in the design stage -- routes and other details have not been finalized.

The public will have the chance to meet with project officials from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the CSU Moffat County Extension Office during an open house.

Entrega is holding a series of open houses throughout the impact region to encourage public comment and participation early in the process.

Those who are interested in the pipeline and are unable to attend the public meeting are urged to call 1-866-305-3830 or visit www.entregapipeline.com.

Project representatives met with city officials two weeks ago and left a positive impression, officials said. Entrega has joined the Craig Chamber of Commerce and the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership.

"It's very valuable to a local community that a company demonstrate involvement in a community and respond to its needs," Comstock said.

The project is expected to trigger more exploration in an already booming market in Moffat County.

"This proposal should dramatically increase natural gas production," DeRose said. "I have a hard time seeing any drawbacks."

There are 63 active permits for drilling or exploration in Moffat County, 14 approved since January. There is one pending, and Comstock expects many more to follow, particularly in the Great Divide area.

"We're experiencing fairly significant exploration activity," he said.

He attributes the increase in activity to an increase in natural gas prices, which gives companies more freedom to explore.

Comstock says his concern with the proposal is how Entrega works with private property owners.

"It's important to the county that they work with surface owners," he said. "Private property rights are very important in Moffat County. That's absolutely crucial in the county's permitting process."

At this early stage in the planning process, it's hard to gauge the potential economic impacts construction and operation of the pipeline will have on Moffat County, but officials are optimistic.

"I think it could be a significant economic catalyst for the region," said Tom Flavin, director of the Craig/Moffat County Economic Development Partnership.

"It could create an incentive for companies involved in oil and gas development with holdings in Moffat County to developing those holdings."

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