Wyoming gas wells eyed for Colorado River water

Wyoming methane gase field -- water may be extracted from abandoned wells
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  • Gas exploration company proposes extracting groundwater from abandoned Wyoming coalbed methane wells.
  • Water could be piped to Colorado River Basin or used within Wyoming.
  • Project faces hurdles, including wildlife concerns and land use permits.
  • Water quality and quantity are also uncertainties.

June 3, 2024 — A Florida-based gas exploration company, Dolar Energy, LLC, is exploring the feasibility of extracting groundwater from abandoned coalbed methane wells in southern Wyoming’s Atlantic Rim gas field, WyoFile reportsOpens in a new tab.. The company has submitted 21 groundwater test well applications to the Wyoming State Engineer’s Office, with two later rescinded due to conflicts with sage grouse and big game migration policies.

The proposed project aims to tap into the abundant groundwater resources in the region, which are replenished by snowmelt from the Sierra Madre Range. If the water quality is suitable, the company hopes to transport it via pipeline to the water-stressed Colorado River Basin or potentially use it within Wyoming for other purposes.

According to WyoFileOpens in a new tab., State Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs), who has met with Dolar Energy, believes the company is considering multiple uses for the water, including exchanges within Wyoming, due to the increased market value of water in the region. However, the project faces several challenges.

One major concern is the potential impact on wildlife, particularly mule deer. The Wyoming Game and Fish DepartmentOpens in a new tab. has raised concerns about the disturbance of recently reclaimed well sites, especially those within the Baggs Mule Deer Migration Corridor. The department recommends avoiding activities in high-use areas during peak migration periods and minimizing surface disturbance to protect migrating mule deer.

Additionally, the project requires various permits and approvals, including those related to land use and potential impacts on federal lands. The Bureau of Land Management has yet to receive necessary applications from Dolar Energy for commercial water wells and right-of-way access.

Water quality and quantity also pose uncertainties. The Atlantic Rim groundwater is generally considered high quality but can be too salty for irrigation. Dolar Energy may need to address salinity issues and ensure sufficient water quantity to justify the project’s expenditures.

Furthermore, the legal framework surrounding interstate water agreements and the classification of groundwater under the Colorado River Compact remains unclear, adding another layer of complexity to the project.

The future of Dolar Energy’s proposal hinges on addressing these various challenges and uncertainties. The company will need to navigate regulatory hurdles, mitigate environmental concerns, and demonstrate the project’s economic viability before proceeding with its plans to extract and potentially transport groundwater from Wyoming’s abandoned gas wells.

Deborah

Since 1995, Deborah has owned and operated LegalTech LLC with a focus on water rights. Before moving to Arizona in 1986, she worked as a quality control analyst for Honeywell and in commercial real estate, both in Texas. She learned about Arizona's water rights from the late and great attorney Michael Brophy of Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite. Her side interests are writing (and reading), Wordpress programming and much more.

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