Equipment from a stick pipe drilling rig is transferred last year from Shell Oil Company’s Harper Hill location. Shell Western Exploration and Production, LP has filed for a permit with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to construct its 20th exploratory well in the Yampa Valley.

Photo by Joe Moylan

Equipment from a stick pipe drilling rig is transferred last year from Shell Oil Company’s Harper Hill location. Shell Western Exploration and Production, LP has filed for a permit with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to construct its 20th exploratory well in the Yampa Valley.

Shell looks to expand exploration of Niobrara Formation

SWEPI applies for new test well 12 miles southwest of Craig

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The winter months may not be prime times to drill, but that didn’t stop a major energy operator from trying to expand its exploration operations in the Niobrara Formation.

In August Shell Western Exploration and Production, LP filed a permit application with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to add a new test well in Moffat County on Iles Mountain about 12 miles southwest of Craig.

The application went live on the COGCC’s web site earlier this month.

Though the location permit still requires COGCC approval, SWEPI already has been actively exploring the Niobrara’s potential to produce shale oil in commercial volume.

To date SWEPI has drilled 17 test wells in Moffat County, including three wells each in North Castor Gulch, Deal Gulch and Herring Draw; two wells each in Hamilton and Dry Sage; and one well each in Wood Gulch, Searcy Gulch, Hart Gulch and on Harper Hill.

SWEPI also has drilled two test wells in Routt County on Gnat Hill and near Dawson Creek.

If the latest permit is approved it would bring SWEPI’s total to 20 test wells in the Yampa Valley.

“I just reached (project lead) Matt Holman by phone,” said Scott Scheffler, communications advisor for Shell’s upstream operations, in an email. “He confirmed, as I expected, that the permit in question is simply another example of a typical directional exploration well for Shell as we continue to appraise our mineral acreage position in Moffat County.”

Further inquiries about Shell’s play in the Niobrara Formation were not received at press time, but according to COGCC data the Iles Mountain well would be constructed on a seven-acre pad and would be drilled directionally to a depth of 5,248 feet.

In addition, SWEPI applied for 31 drilling permits in Moffat County in 2012, according to the COGCC. Thirty have been approved thus far.

But Scheffler said he would not be able to comment about SWEPI’s plans for the future in Moffat County until sometime after the New Year.

For more information about SWEPI’s exploration activities in the Niobrara Formation, among others, visit the COGCC’s online database at www.cogcc.state.co.us.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com.

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