ePlanning DOI-BLM-CO-N040-2017-0050-EA (North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan (NFMMDP))  
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Last Updated:
03/12/2019 14:38:51 MDT
Synopsis of Project
The Proposal
            Gunnison Energy LLC (GELLC) proposes to drill, complete, and operate up to 35 horizontal wells from one existing well pad, one expanded well pad, and three new well pads and to construct access roads and gathering pipelines in Gunnison and Delta counties, Colorado.  The project, referred to as the North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan (NFMMDP), would occur within an area encompassing 34,906 acres of public and private lands.  This includes 25,790 acres administered by the U.S. Forest Service, Grand Mesa-Uncompahgre-Gunnison National Forests, Paonia Ranger District; 468 acres administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Uncompahgre Field Office; and 8,648 acres of private lands.  Federal fluid mineral estate in the project area totals 30,972 acres, including all of the Federal lands and 4,714 acres beneath some of the private lands. General access to the project area would be via State Highway 133 to County Road 265.  GELLC hopes for approval to begin project activities in summer 2019.  Project workforce would be approximately 122 during the 4-year development phase, including construction, drilling, and completion activities, depending on one versus two drilling rigs. Long-term operational life of the project is estimated at 30 years, during which time up to 700 billion cubic feet of natural gas is expected to be produced. 
            The proposal includes use of up to 26 miles of existing roads and up to 4.2 miles of upgraded or new administrative access roads.  The lack of certainty regarding road lengths reflects that the EA analyzes two road options for accessing one of the Federal well pads, depending on GELLC’s ability to obtain access across private land instead of constructing a new road segment across National Forest System lands.  Total initial surface disturbance associated with the project would be approximately 35.9 acres on Federal (mostly National Forest System) lands and 10.2 acres on private lands.  Of these totals, 14.5 acres on Federal lands and 2.9 acres on private lands would remain disturbed over the long-term, until final reclamation of the pads.

Modifications to the Proposed Action Leading to Preparation of the Revised Preliminary EA
            Since publication for public review of a Preliminary EA in May 2018, GELLC has modified its proposal to use the most common and reliable method of hydraulic fracturing, called the slickwater method, instead of the originally proposed nitrogen foam (or gel) method analyzed in an earlier Preliminary EA published in May 2018.  GELLC now considers the nitrogen foam method unfeasible based on the geology of the targeted Manos Shale in combination with the anticipated depth and length of the horizontal well bores.  In addition, the nitrogen used in the nitrogen foam method must be transported and handled onsite at high pressures.  The modification in completions method would result in increased water requirements from the initially estimated 30,000 barrels (3.9 acre-feet) per well to the currently estimated 500,000 barrels (64.4 acre-feet) per well for completions.  For all uses, including drilling, completions, and ongoing dust abatement, the increased per-well water consumption is estimated to increase from 44,535 barrels (5.8 acre-feet) to 522,520 barrels (67.3 acre-feet) per well.  Annual consumption is estimated at 336.7 acre-feet during the first year, when five wells are planned, and 404.1 acre-feet during the second year, when six wells are planned.
            Existing water sources—primarily the Hotchkiss Water Treatment facility within the project area, GELLC’s water right facility for the Elk Creek Mine (Oxbow Mining), and produced water from GELLC’s coalbed methane wells—would be sufficient to meet 90% of the proposed water requirements.  To make up the difference during the first 2 years, GELLC proposes to truck 34 acre-feet of water acquired from the City of Delta via State Highways 92 and 133 to a turnoff into the project area on a private road north of Paonia Reservoir.  Once inside the project area, the water would be transferred into GELLC's existing pipeline system.  GELLC is actively pursuing additional water sources and storage facilities to eliminate the need for truck haulage in the third and fourth years.  The Revised Proposed Action also includes use of a temporary surface pipeline to deliver water from the Elk Creek Mine water right facility to an existing pad near the southern end of the project area, where it would be transferred into GELLC’s existing pipeline system.  
            The currently proposed method of completions would also require the delivery of sand, used as a “proppant” to help keep the fractures open and facilitate release of natural gas into the well bore.  Delivery of sand would utilize haul trucks traveling on SH 133 from a railroad loadout at the Elk Creek Mine to the intersection with CR 265, and from there to pads being completed.  Both the water and sand haulage would occur on 50 to 60 days distributed through late summer and fall. 

Project History
            The first opportunity for public comment was the scoping period from February 17, 2017, to April 17, 2017.  A total of 1,349 scoping comments on the Proposed Action were submitted by individual citizens, elected officials, governmental entities, and non-governmental organizations.  A public comment on the original Preliminary EA was held from May 10, 2018, to June 9, 2018.  During the second public comment period, 102 unique comment letters and emails were received, along with 117 form letters.  Included on this project webpage are the names of commenters on the Preliminary EA and synopses of their comments.

Note to Reviewers
To help reviewers focus on portions of the Revised Preliminary EA that differ from the earlier Preliminary EA, the current version uses a BLUE FONT to indicate new or substatially revised information based on the modified Proposed Action and comments received during public review of the earlier version.    

The BLM and the GMUG National Forests are soliciting public input on the Revised Preliminary Environmental Assessment for the North Fork Mancos Master Development Plan (NFMMDP).  As described above, the Revised Preliminary EA incorporates revisions associated with modifications to the Proposed Action submitted by the proponent (Gunnison Energy LLC).

Comment submissions are accepted via:
1)  Clicking the Documents link on this webpage (left column), locate the Revised Preliminary NFMMDP EA and click the Comment on Document button in the far right column; or,
2)  regular mail addressed to:  BLM Colorado River Valley Field Office, 2300 River Frontage Road, Silt, CO 81652, Attn: North Fork Mancos; or,
3)  email to:  comments-rocky-mountain-gmug@fs.fed.us  with “North Fork Mancos” in the subject line.

Comments must be received by April 1, 2019, or within 30 days of publication of the legal notice in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the GMUG's newspaper of record, whichever is later.  Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, be advised that your entire comment, including your personal identifying information, may be made publicly available at any time.  While you can ask us in your comment to withhold from public review your personal identifying information, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

Although the BLM and GMUG have combined the analysis and comment periods, the two agencies will have separate decision processes.  In order to obtain standing to object to the GMUG's decision on this project, comments must have been received during scoping last year or during this comment period.  This Preliminary EA is a Forest Service activity implementing a land management plan subject to the requirements of 36 CFR 218 A and B.