Anadarko, government forge Greater Natural Buttes project air plan

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, June 10 -- The US Bureau of Land Management, US Environmental Protection Agency, and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. have reached an air-quality agreement that will let a major natural gas development project in eastern Utah move forward, US Interior Sec. Ken Salazar reported. Anadarko subsidiary Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Onshore LP has agreed to use several readily available air-pollution control technologies on the Greater Natural Buttes Development Project in collaboration with BLM and EPA, he said.

The project would include as many as 3,675 new gas wells and could produce more than 6 tcf of gas over 10 years, Salazar noted. Kerr-McGee Onshore first proposed its development in 2006 but it has been delayed partly over air quality impact concerns in eastern Utah’s Uintah basin, which has some of the nation’s unhealthiest wintertime ozone levels, he said.

“This is a critical milestone because it will allow moving forward developing over 3,600 gas wells in Utah,” Salazar said, adding, “We should not have to pick between clean air and oil and gas development; we should do both.”

Salazar said producers should not have to wait years to move ahead on projects because BLM and EPA take different approaches to resolving air-quality questions. “The two agencies have developed a memorandum of understanding on how to resolve conflicts in their approaches,” he said.

BLM will publish a public notice of the air-quality supplement to the project’s draft environmental impact statement in the June 10 Federal Register, BLM Director Robert V. Abbey noted.

Kerr-McGee Onshore’s air pollution control technology agreement includes a pilot project to evaluate the feasibility of using low-emission, gas-fueled rigs to mitigate air quality impacts associated with the project, he said. The agreement also includes an innovative adaptive management strategy that will allow continuing BLM analysis of air quality impacts to inform future development decisions, Abbey said.

“In places like Vernal, Utah, where wintertime ozone levels can sometimes be among the highest in the country, in part due to oil and gas development, we must be especially vigilant that such projects proceed in the right manner and with the right mitigation,” Abbey said.

In the first 2 months of 2011 Utah’s Uintah basin experienced 23 days when ozone exceeded the acceptable levels of pollution, he noted. Five of these days were considered very unhealthy for people, he added. “In Utah, winter ozone formation associated with oil and gas development is a newly recognized problem,” Abbey said, adding, “Specifically, the available science does not give us the understanding of how to deal with it. We anticipate that ongoing research will show us ways to handle the problem.”

“It’s also important that Anadarko has committed to retrofit existing operations with new controls,” Abbey added. An estimated 1,000-4,000 jobs could be created during the project’s lifetime, he said.

Anadarko has worked with BLM and EPA leaders throughout the process of developing the project’s draft EIA and is pleased with the progress, a spokesman for the Houston independent producer told OGJ. “In addition to advancing our nation’s goal of increasing domestic energy production, the Greater Natural Buttes project should bring significant economic benefit to the communities of the Uintah basin and the surrounding area as a result of continued capital investment in this core operating area, as well as through the creation of numerous high-quality jobs,” he said.

Contact Nick Snow at

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