Monument unveils broad plan for CO2

Landscape inventory reveals areas for drilling

BLM staffers Tracy Perfors, Shannon Borders, and Marietta Eaton, manager for Canyons of the Ancient National Monument, discuss a new energy development plan.

More than a mile below Canyons of the Ancients National Monument lies the Leadville formation, home of the nation's largest reserve of carbon dioxide.

But on the surface is the nation's highest concentration of ancient sites, an estimated 20,000 sites within a desert environment.

Poorly mixing the two makes a bad cocktail, damaging our cultural human heritage and landscape from industry, or restricting access to a natural resource used to pressurize oil fields.

Neither has to happen, thanks to an effort by archaeologists and Kinder Morgan, the third-largest U.S. energy company responsible for extracting the CO2.

"Kinder Morgan has been forthcoming about struggles in the past getting approval," said monument manager Marietta Eaton. "When I first got here, I was forced to pull a permit for drilling on Goodman Point because the action had not been listed in the Federal Register."

That problem was solved, but because of a lack of BLM staff to safely manage protected ruins and complex energy development simultaneously, "it was taking years to approve permits."

A pilot program has found a solution. By identifying "cold zones" in the monument without ruins, officials have streamlined the permit process for Kinder Morgan.

The Geographic-wide Development Plan is long-term strategy for drilling CO2 on the 164,000-acre monument, and moving away from ad-hoc development.

More use of directional drilling, which allows the well to move laterally up to 2,000 feet to access CO2, reduces the number of well pads. Better use of infrastructure and more efficient loop lines also lesson cumulative impacts.

"We're creating a big picture that gives development more predictability rather than one well at time," said Tracy Perfors, a BLM resource specialist. "It gives us and the public more of an understanding what the monument will look like in the future."

Business cost

Kinder Morgan decided mitigating for archaeology is a larger fixed cost for business on the monument. Rather than rely on monument archaeologists, Kinder Morgan decided to step up and fund block archeological surveys, folding it into their operating costs for drilling in such a sensitive area.

The company contracted with Woods Canyon consulting to conduct the archaeological surveys.

Knowing where to drill with minimal impacts is the goal.

The first block survey of 3,000 acres contains 12,000 pages and is under review by COA staff specialists. Eventually Kinder Morgan plans to pay for three more block surveys, with the next one scheduled for the 8,000-acre Cow Canyon area of the monument.

They plan to submit plans for an additional 69 wells.

NEPA process

But the reviews of ideal well-pad areas in the first established cold zone in Yellow Jacket are far from over. Development Action says plans for seven to 10 more wells are underway.

The action triggers the public scoping process and detailed reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act, said Tracy Perfors, a BLM natural resource specialist.

Shannon Borders, a BLM public information officer, said, "There will be multiple chances for the public to review drilling projects on the monument."