EnCana, the Calgary, Canada-based energy firm that's the largest natural-gas producer in North America, is currently sending 65 million standard cubic feet of gas daily from two of its fields in the West End of San Miguel County Andy's Mesa Field and Hamilton Creek Field into the TransColorado Pipeline.
Teaming up with EnCana and several of its subsidiaries for Saturday's event are representatives from the Western Colorado Congress, Sage Grouse Working Group, Colorado Environmental Coalition, Bureau of Land Management, Rocky Mountain Energy Report, San Juan Citizens Alliance and CSU Dolores County-San Juan Biodiesel.
"It's an ongoing education process" is how Gale described tomorrow's foray into the public eye. "There are folks in San Miguel County who are interested in learning more about the oil and gas leasing process and the operations process, and EnCana has made itself available over the years to help educate the public, the residents and the surface owners" with a stake in lands, public or private, that are leased for mineral rights.
Andy's Mesa Field, he said, currently producing "roughly 15 million standard cubic feet of gas a day," is on federal lands; Hamilton Creek Field, on "a mix of private, state and federal lands," produces "roughly 50 million standard cubic feet of gas per day."
"We're not specifically discussing anything we're making ourselves available to answer questions the public might have, and to educate them," Gale added.
County Commissioner Art Goodtimes suggested EnCana put together an energy forum under the aegis of the county, Gale explained.
"EnCana has been very responsive" to queries about both its policies and its impacts on the county, Goodtimes said Thursday.
"People are interested in where the fields are," said Gale. "They're interested in the geology of the Paradox Basin. They want to know what geologic conditions are required for setting up an oilfield or a gas field.
"They are relatively small fields," he added, of EnCana's two fields in the West End.
Natural gas production is a relatively clean affair, Gale emphasized. The natural gas is drawn "up the well, and then there's a fairly simple processing that goes on in the field we essentially remove produced water from the natural gas, as well as a little bit of oil, and then press the produced gas into the pipeline."
TransColorado takes it from there. "We basically produce it, and they basically take custody of the gas at their pipeline," he explained.
Goodtimes expressed concern about the polluting effects energy production could have on the Town of Norwood's Sourcewater Protection Area, as more federal land leases come to the bargaining table.
When BLM leases in Sourcewater Protection Areas came online earlier this year, he said, and "the town didn't protest," the county stepped in.
"Until the town gets sourcewater protection regulations in place," Goodtimes explained, "we won't be able to defend" the BLM land from leasing indefinitely."
BLM officials deferred the sourcewater-affecting land tracts, he added, but "based on the failure to study the wild and scenic effect" on the San Miguel River, and not because of deleterious effects on the watershed.
As for stepped-up energy production in the county's West End, Goodtimes said, "The big surprise is that Norwood does not have its sourcewater protection together yet," despite a recent Environmental Protection Agency study that "delineated the sourcewater protection area.
"Norwood was on the verge of regulating" what energy producers could and could not do, "to protect their water source, but they failed to do it.
"The town backed off."
Ultimately, he added, whether or not energy-rich lands can be leased "is not our say.
"It's the BLM's."
EnCana specializes in finding ways to commercially exploit resources previously considered uneconomic, searching out smaller pockets, often in geological formations so dense that the rocks have to be fractured and the gas pressured out. The company turns tricky conditions to its advantage by using a variety of state-of-the-art techniques. To reach a cluster of smaller gas stashes, for instance, EnCana will drill horizontally. From a single surface site, a well can snake down and out sideways, at varying depths, like the branches of an upside-down tree, with a drill that uses high-resolution "micro-seismic" data to guide it along fractures in the rock formation. Once the drill hits the gas pocket, fluids blended to match the geological conditions are pumped in to force out the gas.
With more active wells than any other company in North America about 5,000 EnCana, a major Canadian landholder, thanks to a merger with PanCanadian, which got its start in the 19th century as a railroad company, that brought in 40 million acres of land from the Canadian Northwest Territory down into Texas, can achieve unprecedented economies of scale.
EnCana is the largest owner of oil-and-gas producing land on the North American continent.