PAYETTE — Activity in oil and gas drilling in Payette County has declined considerably as prices have come down from record highs, such as about $100 a barrel for oil.

Most of the wells which have been drilled in the county since drilling started have been shut down with some to be capped.

That was the report given by Mick Thomas, Oil and Gas Division administrator, at his latest town hall meeting Tuesday at the Payette County Courthouse.

There have been 18 wells drilled in the county, Thomas said, 10 of which have been shut down. Of the 10, five wells are scheduled to be capped this year.

There are eight wells that are producing in some capacity, he said, north and northwest, with two wells accounting for more than 90 percent of the current production. There are two additional wells which could be producing except they are not connected to any processing plant, which any gas must go through before it is marketed.

Gas being produced is being shipped out through the Northwest Gas Pipeline, Thomas said.

Currently, there are no drilling permit applications pending, he said.

Companies have 24 months to activate a well, Thomas said, adding there are higher fees for oversight of inactive wells.

During the session, Thomas reiterated that the drilling operations in the Payette County and in Idaho had changed hands, and instead of being part of Alta Mesa, a publicly held company, those operations are now owned by High Mesa Resources, which is held by a private equity firm.

High Mesa also has operations in west Texas and in the southeast.

Commenting on recent litigation over mineral rights integration, which was successfully challenged in federal court, Thomas said the litigation is good for establishing the rules and process.

“Litigation works the bugs out,” he said. “Litigation provides clarity.”

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Larry Meyer is a reporter for the Argus Observer.

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