Natural Gas Production Records from Idaho Well Made Public

Keith Ridler

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The first batch of production records from a natural gas well in Idaho have been made public following a new rule approved by lawmakers.

The Idaho Department of Lands earlier this week released the monthly records that span from February 2013 to July for a well named State 1-17 in southwest Idaho and operated by Houston-based Alta Mesa.

Records show the well is producing a comparatively small amount of natural gas — 290,000 cubic feet in July. The gas is being sent to Intermountain Gas and used in the nearby town of New Plymouth.

“What the state is disclosing is on par with what you see in other states,” said Scott Cockerham, managing director of Conway MacKenzie Capital Advisors and an energy sector expert, after reviewing the records. “Even at current prices it could be an economically feasible well.”

Alta Mesa has more than a dozen other wells in the area that are generally believed to be capable of producing much more. John Foster, Alta Mesa spokesman, said the majority of those wells are now in production. Records from those wells aren’t required to be made public until next year, however.

Foster said the gas from those wells is being sent through an Alta Mesa pipeline to the Williams Northwest Pipeline. Idaho Power is buying the gas for use at its Langley Gulch Power Plant west of Boise.

The new rule approved by the Idaho Legislature last spring requires companies to turn over production records six months after a well starts producing. Six months after that, the state is required to make those records public.

Idaho lawmakers and regulators for the last four years have been trying to keep up with the nascent oil and gas industry that’s being propelled by new technologies that have pinpointed what companies believe are profitable reserves.

Making records public was just one change among a handful Idaho lawmakers made, many suggested by the Idaho Department of Lands. The agency’s director, Tom Schultz, said after the legislative session that Idaho had made a big move to bring rules and laws up to date on a national level.

In general, industry experts say, making such records public facilitates competition among oil companies and provides information to potential investors.

“Once information is made public, other people say, ‘Ah, this is what’s being found out there,'” said Eric Wilson, acting bureau chief for resource protection and assistance at the Department of Lands. “If they’re interested in that sort of activity, then maybe they’ll come to town and start bidding on leases and give competition to Alta Mesa.”

Cockerham said Idaho’s public production law strikes a balance between protecting a company’s investment and making enough information public.

“You don’t want to tip your hand too early to (competitors), but you don’t want to go too late because voters want to know what’s going on and they have a right to know,” he said.

As far as the information released so far, Cockerham said it likely wouldn’t draw that much attention. “If you had another 15 of these wells and you had some that came in at a billion cubic feet, than you would see some interest,” he said.

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