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Study reveals much more natural gas in western Colorado

USGS says Piceance Basin second-largest reserve


Data show that 66 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale natural gas, 74 million barrels of shale oil and 45 million barrels of natural gas liquids were found in the basin, located in the west-central region of the state – roughly an area between Grand Junction, Gunnison, Glenwood Springs and northwestern Colorado. The find is more than 40 times the previous estimate, taken in 2003.

Representative Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, applauded the announcement and said in a statement that it presents an opportunity for economic growth.

“The potential of this find for Western Colorado’s economy and for our national energy security is tremendous,” Tipton said in a statement. “This is an incredible opportunity to create jobs and economic growth in one of the regions hit hardest by the economic downturn. In order to capitalize on it, it’s imperative that our nation’s elected representatives work to advance a responsible all-of-the-above energy policy that embraces both renewable-energy technologies and traditional resources – including natural gas and coal.”

Tipton also said that the find called for the completion of the Jordan Cove pipeline, which would export natural gas from the Piceance Basin to the Pacific Rim.

“Utilizing this resource can become a reality by getting common-sense projects like the Jordan Cove pipeline off the ground, increasing U.S. natural gas exports and establishing a true all-of-the-above domestic energy policy through responsible production,” he said.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said in a statement that the assessment is good news for rural economies and local families.

“Responsible development of these resources can create good paying jobs and a cleaner energy mix, while still preserving sensitive landscapes like the Thompson Divide that make Colorado such a special place,” Bennet said in a statement. “We’ll work with local communities, industry, conservationists, and everyone in between to strike the right balance as we discuss protections for our lands and potential future development of these natural resources.”

Sen. Michael Gardner, R-Colo., also applauded the news, and said that it will help the state to remain a leader in energy production.

“Today’s news is exciting for our energy-rich state,” Gardner said. “Colorado has always been a leader in responsible energy production, and this new oil and gas assessment in the Piceance Basin is welcomed. Western Colorado already plays a critical role in moving the United States closer to energy security, and this announcement builds on that success.”

The USGS release said a 2003 assessment of the Mancos Shale in the basin estimated 1.6 trillion cubic feet of shale nature gas. Since that time, more than 2,000 wells were drilled and completed, and the agency’s Energy Resources Program drilled a research well in the southern part of the basin that “provided significant new geologic and geochemical data that were used to refine the 2003 assessment,” the release said.

Kate Magill is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern with The Durango Herald. Reach her at kmagill@durangoherald.com.

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