The Texas company that plans to drill two exploratory horizontal shale-oil wells in western La Plata County has submitted its first drilling permit application to the state.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission received an application for a permission to drill from Swift Energy on May 17. The application would allow the company to drill one wildcat well about 3½ miles west of La Plata Highway (Colorado Highway 140) near Alkali Gulch Road.
The well would be the first horizontal-shale drilling the county has seen, and its potential arrival has stirred much debate among county residents.
Swift Energy first came onto the county’s radar in January when it applied to the state for two exploratory drilling and spacing units, which defined the about 600-acre areas near Kline and Marvel where the company could drill two wells. County hearings about those units and the potential for the board of county commissioners to enact a moratorium on shale-oil drilling countywide drew dozens of people who argued for and against the issue.
The county approved a memorandum of understanding with Swift Energy in March, allowing its exploratory unit applications to move forward at the state level, and has decided not to enact a moratorium for now.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has until Aug. 4 to make a decision about Swift’s drilling permit application. The public and the county have until June 20 to comment on the application through the commission’s website.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment were requested to provide consultation on Swift’s permit application as well. Their comments are due June 29.
With the amount of comment and consultation expected on the permit, Karen Spray, COGCC’s southwest environmental-protection specialist said she doesn’t expect the state to approve it much earlier than the Aug. 4 deadline.
Swift must also apply for a land-use permit from the county before it can begin work. The company recently completed a traffic-impact study that was a requirement for county approval and also plans to meet with local emergency responders next month, said Bob Redweik, Swift’s corporate manager for health, safety and environment.
Swift has not decided when it will submit a drilling permit application for the second exploratory well it plans to drill, Redweik said.
The company decided to drill its first well on the unit west of La Plata Highway rather than to the east of the highway for several reasons, including the fact that there are fewer neighbors, he said.
Fort Lewis Mesa residents Bruce Whitehead and Becca Conrad-Whitehead live within Swift’s eastern exploratory unit and have expressed concerns that the lateral arm of Swift’s well would pass beneath their property and their well water supply. They made a request for Swift to drill on its western unit first and have repeatedly pushed for caution in the drilling approval process.
“Before you make this cut into our community please make sure you’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s,” Becca Conrad-Whitehead told county commissioners at one hearing this spring.