Locations of three proposed wells that Ultra Resources wants to drill in unincorporated El Paso County include a site near a mobile home park outside Ellicott.
All are in the eastern part of the county on Colorado State Land Board property. One drilling site is just south of Curtis and Drennan roads, near the Banning Lewis Ranch. Another is south of Squirrel Creek Road east of Fountain, and the third is south of Highway 94, between Ellicott and Yoder.
While the first two are in fairly remote areas of the county, the third is near mobile homes and a few businesses.
County Commissioner Dennis Hisey said the locations of the proposed wells likely won’t cause “a lot of heart burn” until the county adopts permanent regulations for the industry.
“I’d like to get those in place before we start getting close to people’s barns and houses,” he said.
View Location of Ultra Resources exploratory wells in a larger map
Changes to a four-month moratorium on exploratory drilling that county commissioners made last week will enable the Ultra to obtain local permits within two to three months.
The moratorium took effect Sept. 29 to give commissioners more time to develop local regulations, in anticipation of heightened interest in energy development after the discovery of oil in a shale and limestone formation known as the Niobrara. It lies beneath Colorado and Wyoming.
State approval also is pending for Ultra to drill the exploratory wells. Hisey said the company probably will test water wells within a half a mile of the drill site before they start, to determine a baseline for water quality and supply. Ultra is a subsidiary of Houston-based Ultra Petroleum.
State regulations require that drilling be at least 175 feet away from any building, including a residence, Hisey said, but added that he expects local land use regulations to push that requirement out farther.
County staff is writing draft regulations now. They are expected to be ready to circulate for public review early next week.
Ultra has acquired thousands of acres of mineral leases from both private property owners and the Colorado State Land Board, which sells leasing rights at auction and turns over the revenue to Colorado schools.
The company plans to start exploratory drilling for oil and gas in late December or early January.