From the Denver Business Journal

Colorado regulators Monday approved an unprecedented Noble Energy Inc. plan to drill hundreds of oil and gas wells on 100 square miles of Weld County.

The plan calls for drilling as many as 772 horizontal wells across 64,133 acres of unincorporated farmland southeast of Greeley, an area where Houston-based Noble (NYSE: NBL) owns 85 percent of the mineral rights to underground oil and gas.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission voted unanimously in favor of the drilling proposal.

Noble Energy large-scale CDP could be first, last of its kind in Colorado

It’s the first large-scale comprehensive drilling plan approved under regulations the COGCC created 11 years ago. There may not be another plan as big ever proposed, given the unique combination of the 275 surface properties being outside any municipal boundaries and so many of the mineral rights held by one company.

“I don’t think we could imagine that something like this could be pulled off,” remarked Commissioner Howard Boigon, who’d been a lawyer working on the comprehensive drilling plan rules the COGCC adopted in 2007.

Noble, the second largest oil producer in Colorado, predicts it will take until 2024 to complete all the work in the area.

The comprehensive drilling plan process was created to enable companies to minimize surface disturbance and efficiently develop well sites across a large area.

The company gets six years of exclusive rights to drill news wells in the area covered by the plan.

Pipelines instead of tanks on site

It plans drilling locations on 147 sites lined up across the acreage and using pipelines instead of tanks at the well sites to carry the oil, gas and water away for processing, and to bring water to the drilling sites during well development.

Noble will also plug and decommission 1,487 older, vertical wells that exist on the land already.

Being able to plan across such a large area allowed for the efficient construction of the infrastructure involved, Noble officials said.

Massive plan to save 7 million truck trips across Weld County, 768,000 metric tons of CO2

The company estimates the plan will save 7 million truck trips across Weld County roads and eliminate 768,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles that otherwise would’ve occurred if traditional well development with tanks had been pursued.

“To be able to get all this; to be totally unprotested and to be able to plug and abandon all these older wells — it seems like a win-win,” concluded Michael Wozniak, of Denver-based Beatty and Wozniak, who presented Noble’s plan to the commission Monday.

The company already has surface use agreements in place with all the affected property owners.

How does the Noble CDP align with Prop 112?  Up to 772 drilling permits still needed 

Noble will separately apply to the COGCC for drilling permits for each of the wells sites it develops.

How the plan would be affected by passage of the statewide Proposition 112 ballot initiative currently being voted on in Colorado’s elections isn’t clear. Neither the company nor the COGCC could say whether the comprehensive drilling plan approval would exempt Noble from the ballot question’s requirement that new oil and gas infrastructure be at least 2,500 feet from occupied structures, schools, streams and other ‘vulnerable’ sites.

Noble Energy has started some drilling and older well decommissioning already in the southern portion of the comprehensive drilling plan area, getting individual permit approvals for wells that now will be considered part of Noble’s overall plan.

“We are pleased with the outcome and look forward to proceeding,” said Brian Miller, spokesman for Noble Energy, after Monday’s vote.

The company started working on the plan more than a year ago, applying to the COGCC in May and receiving preliminary authorization from COGCC Director Julie Murphy in August.

It held meetings for property owners and public officials in Weld County over the summer.

The only other comprehensive drilling plan proposed under the 2007 rules is one proposed earlier this year in Boulder County by Crestone Peak Resources.

That plan, covering ten square miles, has been slowed by disputes with the county and local municipal governments.



Legal Notice