Energy companies predict long stay in Colorado

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— Several energy company representatives at this week's Fueling Thought Energy Summit 2008 event presented a straightforward vision for their industry's future in Northwest Colorado:

The energy industry is here to stay.

The Energy Summit this Thursday and Friday at the Holiday Inn of Craig drew many industry representatives, including those from regional and local operations.

Dean Tinsley, Williams Production RMT Co. senior staff petroleum engineer working in Rio Blanco County's Piceance Basin, said the notion of a boom and bust cycle now or in the near future is a falsity.

"Northwest Colorado is really a mecca for this type of operation," Tinsley said. "There's a lot of acreage to be drilled. We've barely scratched the surface.

"It's a world-class play that's going to be around for a long, long, long time."

Tinsley pointed to Williams' $20 million investment in a private mountain pass road and tunnel as an example of a financial commitment that companies will not likely walk away from.

There also are ample resources left in the area, Tinsley said.

Williams produces about 750 million cubic feet of gas each day, with another 100 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas left in the basin.

Tinsley said energy companies have harvested less than 25 percent of "what will eventually be drilled."

"We're going to be out here a long time," he said. "This is not going to be a boom and bust scenario."

Tinsley added Williams is "committed" to harvesting resources under the best compromises between business and environmental concerns.

His company has gone to drilling multiple wells from one well pad, up to 22 at a time, Tinsley said. By reducing infrastructure and shipping operations, this kind of directional drilling increases industry profits and reduces its environmental footprint.

However, Tinsley also said some areas have "tight sands," which could predicate a need to drill on 10-acre spacing. He said though that number looks considerable, it is not different than footprints caused by many renewable resources, such as wind turbines.

One gas well in the Piceance Basin, he said, produces the same amount of energy as 20 wind turbines and 45 acres of solar panels.

Local coal mines also expect to continue operations for several years to come.

"We have quite a bit of resources left here in the mine," said Stephen Hinkemeyer, Trapper Mining production manager. "We've been able to produce nearly 8 million yards of coal over the last several years. We hope production is more than 8.5 million yards this year."

A 2006 landslide into one Trapper pit has delayed operations, Hinkemeyer said, but officials thinks the mine will be able to mine the area by this time next year.

Hinkemeyer added there are underground coal seams running beneath Trapper, as well, the same seams that Twentymile Coal mines in Routt County. However, research has shown the coal is a lower quality the deeper its found, which would mean more investment in washing processes and subsequently higher costs.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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