Oil Production Booming in Converse County

by Taylor Viydo, tviydo@k2tv.com 
Workers on the Sims 26-33-71 rig have been kept busy as of late. The drilling rig located just a few miles outside of Douglas, Wyoming is one of many that have become increasingly common in parts of Northern Converse County.  
The activity is all part of an oil boom happening in the Southern Powder River Basin.  
“This is a new play in that it’s in the shales. Some of it is in the Niobrara, some of it’s in the Turner and the Sussex and the Parkman,” said Petroleum Association President Bruce Hinchey.
Like many other production spikes across the country, new drilling techniques are largely responsible for the increased activity. While hydraulic fracturing has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent years, the practice has been around for over 40 years. However, within the past decade, advancements in drilling technology and fracking techniques have opened up the door for even more oil exploration and development.  
“Because of that, [the Southern Powder River Basin] is a new area that hasn’t been explored and developed that way,” said Hinchey in regards to the improvements. “It’s had some really good potential in the past couple years.”  
According to the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, over 1.9 million barrels of oil were produced in Converse County in 2006. So far this year, drillers have extracted more than 2.9 million barrels. What was 3.5% of the state’s total production is now 8.6%.  
In September, there were a total of 50 rigs drilling for oil and gas in Wyoming. 16 of them were located in Converse County alone.  

An oil rig just North of Douglas, Wyoming
Chesapeake Energy is one of many companies that has taken notice of the potential in Converse County. “It’s been good,” says Chesapeake spokeswoman Kelsey Campbell. “Just in the last couple years we’ve found some very good areas...At the end of 2011 we were running five rigs, and as of now we have eight rigs in Converse County.” By the end of the year, Chesapeake hopes to have even more rigs drilling for oil in the area.
Campbell adds that Chesapeake has even been bringing employees from other states to work in the Southern Powder River Basin. “In some cases, we are even bringing Wyoming workers back from other states so that they can work closer to home,” she says. 

Workers on a rig in Converse County
In September, the BLM cleared the way for even more drilling in the area. Experts now say more than 440 new oil and gas wells could be drilled over the next few months. In the face of looming state budget cuts, the boom is welcome news.  
“I assume that there will be more drilling in that area, which helps us not only for jobs, but it is going to help the counties in the state later on with their tax bases,” says Hinchey. “At a time when the government has been struggling with the budget, this is going to be good news later on...It’s looking good right now, at least for oil prospect in the state of Wyoming.”