Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Coal bed methane permit under review

Palmer | Patty Sullivan | Sunday, June 17, 2007

A resource development company has applied for a conditional use permit to drill for coal bed methane on farmland at the corner of Bogard Road, Trunk Road, and Colony School Drive in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. More than 1,300 property owners within a one-mile radius are being notified through the mail. Residents have until Aug. 8 to submit comments.

Fowler Oil & Gas Corporation is proposing the pilot project of one well on an 840-acre unit. The Palmer-based company says its operation will meet or exceed Borough permit thresholds.

"The pilot program proposes to use a large unit with a single well and horizontal drilling," said Borough Planning Director Murph O'Brien. "This pilot program is significantly different than the earlier multiple-well CBM proposals that raised so much controversy."

In this application, the surface landowners also own the subsurface rights and are willing to participate. Fowler Oil & Gas Corporation said it will pay royalties to the landowners. Four families own the land and are leasing it.

The company says that ten times more coal with ten times the gas content is in the MAT-SU Borough than in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming. Some 382 billion cubic feet of gas is in the coal seams of this unit, as projected by the company. The life of the well is expected to be 50 years.

The company said its pump is quiet. This technology does not require a compressor. The production pump would be housed in a replica colony barn.

Impacts to the surface would be minimal, the company indicates. Horizontal drilling technology would enable a single vertical well 3,500 feet down and would have lateral wells reaching 2,500 feet horizontally into the coal seams. A buried feeder pipeline will connect to the existing Enstar Natural Gas Company pipeline, located in the road right of way.

The company said it would have no impact on ground water. A solid casing would be drilled through the first 1000 feet to stay clear of well water. Extraction would be from the horizontal wells at greater depths. No fracturing chemicals would be injected. No altered water will be brought to the surface, but instead would be siphoned off below ground and injected into deep sandstone formations.

Three years ago, the Borough Assembly adopted some of the strongest regulations for coal bed methane in the country. At that time hundreds of residents turned to local government for regulations that would protect their private property. Much of the controversy grew from few rules and different ownership on the split estate. Often in Alaska a private landowner has rights to the surface and the State owns the minerals beneath it. In the proposal three years ago, a different gas company was attempting to extract the state's minerals beneath mostly private land across some 200,000 acres in the Mat-Su with a denser proposed well spacing of one per 20 acres.

The permit will be introduced Aug. 6 before the Borough Planning Commission. On Aug. 20, a public hearing will be held on the permit.

The Borough has hired an environmental consulting firm to review the application.

For more information call Public Affairs Manager Patty Sullivan at (907) 745-9577.