Shell continues to pursue planned oil wells in Routt County despite ultimate plans to leave |

Shell continues to pursue planned oil wells in Routt County despite ultimate plans to leave

A private road leads to the area where Shell plans to build and operate an oil well on property owned by longtime Routt County resident Frank Camilletti and his family.

— Shell Oil is seeking drilling permits for two long-anticipated oil wells between Steamboat Springs and Hayden even though it told Routt and Moffat county officials in late July that it is pulling back from its plans to explore the Niobrara shale in Northwest Colorado.

Shell’s plans to acquire permits for the Camilletti well north of Milner and the Williams well southeast of Hayden are consistent with what company spokesman Carolyn Tucker told Steamboat Today in early August.

Tucker said at the time that her company had decided to focus on assets with a higher growth potential than the play here that it calls the Sand Wash Basin Niobrara. However, she said Shell intended to move forward with planned wells before beginning to market its assets here to other energy companies.

Routt County Planning Department Director Chad Phillips said this week that the Camilletti well, previously being developed by Quicksilver Resources, has a date with the Routt County Planning Commission at 6 p.m. Sept. 5 and is scheduled to go to the Routt County Board of Commissioners at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 17 for what could be a final vote on the fate of the permit.

Shell tentatively is set to go before the Planning Commission seeking a permit for the Williams well on Oct. 3 and then to the Board of Commissioners on Oct. 22. Phillips said the dates for the public hearings for the Williams well could change if Shell is not able to get traffic information to the county’s consultant in a timely way. And documents on file at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission indicate that Shell has not completed the process for obtaining its state permit, which typically precedes the local process.

Shell’s Matt Holman, a senior geologist and project manager, told Steamboat Today on May 8 during a public open house that the Camilletti well was at the top of the list among four new wells planned for Routt County this year.

Routt County actually approved a permit for the Camilletti well in July 2012 when Quicksilver was the anticipated operator, however that permit never was signed by Quicksilver.

Since that time, Quicksilver and Shell reached a mutual agreement to share profits on a group of wells within a geographic boundary, and Shell would become the operator going forward.

The likely reason that Quicksilver did not act on that permit is its displeasure with groundwater quality monitoring wells that Routt County required in its permit approval. The former Board of Commissioners was particularly concerned about groundwater quality because the proposed well site is up gradient from a number of domestic wells in unincorporated Milner. Since then, a new rule was passed by the Oil and Gas Commission that could have superseded the county’s position.

Holman told Steamboat Today in May that he did not intend to frack the Camilletti well, a strategy that might mitigate Routt County’s concerns over ground water.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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