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PINEDALE, WY - Driller Mike Storkamp on Caza Drill Rig 86 on the Pinedale Anticline near Pinedale, Wy., (pop. 1400) on August 18, 2005. The Caza rig is contracted to Questar, one of the main natural gas lease holders in Sublette County which also encompasses the Jonah Field. Questar was recently granted approval for year-round drilling operations in the Pinedale Anticline, an environmentally sensitive winter forage ground for big game, part of the longest big game migration route in the lower 48, as well as hosting the largest remaining population of sage grouse. Some of the reasons for approval were Questar's proposal of fewer drill pads, more directional drilling, and a pipeline to transport condensate and water out of the environmentally sensitive areas. Critics say these changes should have been standard in the initial drilling permit which, were it to be followed, would have amounted to a greater overall environmental impact than the newly approved plan. Year-round drilling will allow the company to develop its wells in about half the time (10 years vs. 18 years) and to stabilize a seasonal influx of workers, allowing contracted employees to take up residence in the area instead of spending the summers in company man-camps or the area hotels. In the nearby Jonah Field where operators are seeking an 'in-fill' project with the number of cheaper straight-down wells increasing from 533 to 3100, Encana, one of the chief operators, is expected to drill two thirds of the wells to yield upwards of 10.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas which has a current market value of $55 to $60 billion dollars. Encana could make $2 billion in profit per TCF depending price trends and production costs. Amongst Pinedale Anticline engineers there is already talk of in-fill projects and deep wells reaching down to 20,000 feet. Current wells are in the 11,000-15,000 foot depth..
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