Pinedale Anticline annual BLM-Operator planning meeting held
by Pinedale Online!
February 21, 2013
The Bureau of Land Management held their annual gas field operator planning meeting on Thursday, Feb. 21st. The meeting included presentations from the operators on their operations and projections for 2013 as well as updates on gas field electrification and wildlife news.
In general, low prices for natural gas have resulted in operatorís plans for further drilling in the Pinedale Anticline to be scaled back or stopped at the present time while companies evaluate the market for this product.
Companies have made considerable investment and progress towards reducing emissions that contribute to the formation of ozone. The companies have gone to Liquids Gathering Systems rather than truck transport and all drill rigs have Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) emission reduction devices on them. The companies have regular programs in place for monitoring and repairing leaks in their equipment.
None of the companies use open reserve pits for drilling fluids anymore in the Pinedale Anticline and instead use closed loop mud systems for their operations. All operators use mostly recycled water for their operations with minimal amounts of fresh water used.
Exhaust stacks are being outfitted with covers and devices to discourage perching and use by birds and bats. Containers or water troughs that an animal might fall into are either covered or outfitted with escape ramps.
One area that still is getting attention is putting visibility devices on fences to help prevent low-flying birds from running into them. The BLM welcomes any volunteers or groups that might want to take on fence marking as a community service project. Operators are working on marking fences around well pads as an ongoing process. Markers are placed about every 4 or 5 feet and cost about $1,000 per mile of fence.
Wyoming Game & Fish biologist, Dean Clause gave a presentation in which he announced the agency has recently completed the process of updating their Crucial Winter Range delineations map which now includes more area for what they consider to be critical habitat for antelope. The last update was done in 1994. The latest map covers the area from Interstate 80 north into the Upper Green River Basin. The agency manages for 46,000 antelope in this area as their population objective. The update incorporates real observations, tracking and monitoring data, recent wildlife study input, visual use count and observations, and aerial flight counts for where animals are between the winter months of December through March. The new map covers 95% of the herd population counted in the coverage map for critical habitat. This map updating was done internally and there was no public participation or public meetings held as part of the process for creating the new expanded critical habitat map.
Therese Hartman, reclamation biologist with the Wyoming Game & Fish, gave a presentation on monitoring of reclamation efforts through the Anticline. They studied 136 locations that were at least 3 years old. Approximately 1/3rd were moving towards successful reclamation. The remaining sites needed more work. She noted several locations where hydrocarbons appear to be rising to the surface over reclaimed and covered reserve pits, which appeared to be causing residual fracking fluids to get into plant root zones. Efforts are being made to work together to get functioning habitat back as quickly as possible.
Shane DeForest, Field Manager for the Pinedale BLM Field Office, gave an update on what was presented at the wildlife meeting a day earlier. Mule deer populations appear to have improved. They did not observe more than 15% decline in populations compared to the reference numbers. No matrix triggers occurred for mule deer for 2011-2012. Also, no matrix triggers occurred for pronghorn or pygmy rabbits. A matrix trigger did occur for sage grouse in an area that had two active leks, but birds did not return to use one of the nesting areas. Further observation is needed to determine if birds would return and reoccupy the lek. DeForest told the operators that PAPO funds would no longer be available for raptor monitoring, however the companies were still expected to gather that data in their areas of operation for BLM evaluation.
DeForest told the companies that the BLM had approved all the development proposals for their operations for this next year.