Gas activity remains flat in La Plata County

Boom continues elsewhere in state

After a lag while state officials redrafted rules for the natural-gas and oil industry, permitting activity in Colorado has skyrocketed.

Last year was the third-busiest year for permit requests in the state’s history, according to information released Thursday by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

Much of the new activity, however, is along the northern border of the state, officials said. Permit requests in La Plata County accounted for 6 percent of the state’s permit activity in 2009 but were only 3 percent last year.

“It’s pretty quiet around here right now,” said Karen Spray, an environmental protection specialist for the commission, which regulates the industry.

While gas production in the state rose in 2009, commission officials said at a meeting of the Gas and Oil Regulatory Team that they anticipate 2010 figures will reflect a drop when the information is compiled.

There are 43,332 active wells in Colorado, commission officials said, with 3,243 located in La Plata County.

The Gas and Oil Regulatory Team, or GORT, is a group of government and industry technical experts that meets periodically in La Plata County to discuss issues of local concern.

Local officials have known for some time that gas production in the area has peaked and is declining.

“We will see a decline in the next 10 years unless there are new discoveries,” Spray said.

The industry is sustaining here by putting new wells on existing well pads to keep natural-gas production fruitful, she said.

Spray said they haven’t heard of any new exploratory efforts in the county recently, but such efforts sometimes can be “hush-hush,” and there are exploration efforts under way in Dolores and Montezuma counties.

Josh Joswick, energy issues coordinator for the San Juan Citizens Alliance, said gas prices often affect exploration efforts in the region. More work is likely when prices are high, he said.

hscofield@durangoherald.com