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BLM evaluating big energy plays in Bison Basin field, southern Fremont County

May 5, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Both projects are proposed to take place on BLM land in greater sage grouse core area.

Two projects in the Bison Basin oil field are seeking a green light from the Bureau of Land Management's Lander Field Office.

Bison Basin is about 20 miles south of Sweetwater Station on the Fremont County side of the border with Sweetwater County.

Denver-based Richardson Operating Company is behind the first application to drill new wells, according to BLM documents.

Dawson Geophysical Company of Texas is seeking the second permit to perform a geophysical survey for Richardson Operating.

The Lander Field Office is in the midst of developing environmental assessments of both projects.

A scoping notice stated the first permit would allow a nine-well steam injection project, and the second is for a three-dimensional seismic geophysical survey in the same area.

Both projects are proposed to take place on BLM land in greater sage grouse core area. Development in the core area is subject to regulation under an executive order from Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.

The first project would inject steam into an oil field to heat the viscous liquid making it more runny and increasing pressure on the fuel.

Both effects allow it to be extracted more easily.

This technique is used to draw more oil from an old field, called a secondary recovery.

The project would use an existing steam facility but will include nine new wells and generate new drill pads, access roads and pipelines. The project is expected to last 20 years.

The scoping notice said the geophysical survey will examine the subsurface geologic structure under 15.5 square miles of BLM administered surface and should last about six months.

To conduct the survey, eight 62,000-pound trucks will travel cross country to send vibrations into the ground. Seismographs will pick up shockwaves reflected back from subsurface layers.

In the scoping notice, BLM has identified several areas of concern, including impacts to sage grouse and other animal habitat, to water above and below ground, and to air quality and vegetation.

The Lander Field Office is also in the process of permitting other hydrocarbon drilling projects: a 228-well natural gas development in the Beaver Creek area nine miles southeast of Riverton and the 4,250-well oil and gas Moneta Divide project on the Natrona County line.

A similar project to the Bison Basin nine-well development received a permit last summer.

The Lander Field Office permitted 10 new wells and pieces of infrastructure in the Grieve Unit 53 miles west of Casper so Elk Petroleum could inject water and carbon dioxide into an old oil field, allowing it to produce more fuel.

Approval for that project took two years.

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