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Rio Grande County drilling is underway

Posted: Friday, Mar 15th, 2013

The First Liberty Energy drill site on Old Woman's Creek in Del Norte is fully operational.

Courier staff writer

DEL NORTE — After three weeks and 7,700-feet, First Liberty Energy (FLE) has yet to strike the oil and gas jackpot, but management remains optimistic.

On Friday, Peterson Energy Assistant Drilling Manager Arvid Mosnes said the drilling has almost reached its 9,000-foot goal, with casing in place to 4,800-feet, clearly meeting FLE’s promise to case 200-feet below the Conejos Formation.

“The Conejos Formation is about 4,600-feet, and we drilled past that to protect the aquifer from any potential possible pollution,” explained Mosnes, who has been working with the natural resources for 35 years. “We now have another barrier to prevent or protect the aquifer or any underground layers or formations... This is obviously a very precious resource. When it comes to the protection of the aquifer, this is above and beyond what most would have done.”

He said the drilling, which is moving at 20-feet an hour, has revealed some “pay zones,” the area where oil, gas and hydrocarbon are trapped under a cap rock. In this case, the cap rock is shale combined with a sandy like substance stemming from volcanic intrusion.

“There could be sources from far away from here that are trapped underneath in that pay zone,” Mosnes said. “When I was working in Venezuela, resources from 200 miles away were exiting through the source point.”

Despite rumors of protestors in the area placing the Rio Grande Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado State Patrol on alert, he said the project has been going very well.

“I am very impressed with all the visitors that have come by,” Mosnes said. “I am more than happy to share because I am passionate about what we are doing. The more people know about drilling and oil production in general, the better it is for everybody. A lot of people have been fed deception. There are a lot of untruths out there. Oil and gas are the backbone of civilization.”

He added, “The locals around here have been tremendous. Your law enforcement has been fantastic. They come by and visit, and I love it. The guys on the rig have done a great job and they have had no problems.”

In February, the Rio Grande County Commissioners (RGCC) approved the FLE permit to drill five miles northwest of downtown Del Norte with a lengthy list of conditions including a pair specifically meeting community requests and the Rio Grande Hydrogeologic Study released earlier this year. The company agreed to exclusively employ a closed-loop, pitless system and extend the casing below the Conejos Formation, which FLE contested at the end of January despite the study’s findings. The study called for a 4,000-foot casing depth, and FLE and the RGCC reached a deal with respect to the unpredictable underground structure.

“A lot of people are concerned, and they should be, but we don’t want pollution more than anybody else,” Mosnes said. “It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, you still want to breathe clean air and drink clean water. What most people don’t realize is that there are natural sources of oil and gas in the ocean and all over the world coming through and breaking out and being omitted into the atmosphere.”

Should the drilling turn up commercial level resources in the next week, he said more wells would come to the area.

“They way I see it, they (FLE) will drill a lot more wells,” Mosnes said. “This is a new beginning. It has a great potential to bring work and revenue to the county. That is what we all need to live.”

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