Letters From the West

Natural gas drillers plan new seismic tests in Payette County

Idaho moved closer to natural gas production in Payette County with new seismic testing expected to begin soon.

Alta Mesa, the Texas-based partner of Snake River Oil and Gas, is planning additional testing that would produce more 3D images of the subsurface where already several successful wells have hit natural gas. Testing is expected in early 2014.

It is completing permits for a dehydration facility south of New Plymouth near Interstate 84. It also is working on permits for a seven- to 10-mile pipeline that would connect existing and new wells in Payette County to the pipeline near Idaho Power Co.’s Langley Gulch natural gas plant near New Plymouth.

It hopes to go into production soon sending natural gas to customers through the Intermountain Gas pipeline.

“The company is doing what its always done is take a predictable, conservative approach to make sure this project is done right,” said John Foster, a spokesman for the company. “Alta Mesa is committed to Idaho for the long term.”

Bridge Resources discovered natural gas and condensate, a mix of petroleum liquids, in 2010 in the so-called Willow Hamilton fields in Payette County. The condensate, which is nearly pure enough to use as jet fuel, is worth even more than the natural gas.
The Treasure Valley’s gas discovery is in a sedimentary sand deposit and not shale; drillers elsewhere have accessed the latter using a process of horizontal hydraulic fracturing or “fracking.” The controversial process that has open millions of acres of the nation to natural gas production will not be used here, officials said.

Drillers will use well treatment, a long-established process of sending liquids and sand down a well under high pressure to enhance gas flows.

The Idaho Legislature approved oil and gas rules in 2012 and this year changed the makeup of the Idaho Oil and Gas Commission, which used to consist of the members of the Idaho Land Board. The new panel, appointed earlier this year by Gov. Butch Otter, includes members representing different stakeholders.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West