Natural gas drilling beginning in S. Idaho


by Stephanie Zepelin

Posted on July 19, 2013 at 6:12 AM

Updated Friday, Jul 19 at 6:21 AM

PAYETTE COUNTY  --  A Texas company has started drilling for natural gas in southwest Idaho.

The company Alta Mesa is looking for natural gas in Payette County, and they already have one drilling operation up and running, and they have permitting to start up another.

On a piece of private land out, workers are drilling for natural gas below ground.

"It's pretty exciting," said industry spokesman John Foster. "It's a sign that the industry is moving forward here in Idaho."

Foster, who also works for Snake River Oil and Gas, said these wells could bring economic growth to the area.

"You have a lot of folks needed to drill wells and to do the kinds of things infrastructure wise that are needed for these kinds of projects," Foster said.

However, how much economic growth these wells could bring depends on how much natural gas is in them.

"If this new drilling shows there really is the resource there that we all hope exists, it will mean great things for that part of the state and for Idaho in general," Foster said. "If there is gas discovered and sold, a percentage of the sale goes directly to Idaho and then goes back to the local communities."

Foster said Idaho's laws will help protect the environment from being negatively impacted by the natural gas wells.

"The legislature passed and the department of lands administers very strict rules that require our industry to be very careful about how it drills its wells," said Foster. "There's extensive amounts of concrete and steel and reinforcement to make sure that the drilling process never impacts the environment around it."

Neither of Alta Mesa's two permitted drilling locations in Payette County are in producing natural gas as they still need to find out more about the resources underground.

The type of drilling happening out there is conventional drilling, and if Alta Mesa wants to do hydraulic fracking they would have to get a special permit from the state. The Idaho Department of Lands said they have not received any permit requests for fracking, and Foster did not say if they have any plans for hydraulic fracking in Payette County in the future.