Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Ultra cements end of oil-drilling attempts in El Paso County

By Ned Hunter Published: August 16, 2013

Ultra Petroleum expects to finish capping its four El Paso County oil exploration wells by the month's end. It's an indication that the Houston-based petroleum company intends to abandon its exploratory drilling on its sites east of Colorado Springs, at least for the near future.

Ultra had four wells in El Paso County. It drilled three, and fractured one of those in hopes of finding oil. Ultra announced the results from the test drilling in March, concluding that oil retrieved from the three wells was "disappointing" and "too immature for commercial development."

Now the company is pouring cement down the holes of all four wells and cutting the tops, or heads, of main exploration pipes to about 15 feet below ground level, an Ultra representative said Friday.

"Anything perforated or fracked was filled with cement," said the representative, who declined to give his name.

That means the company is pouring cement into all horizontal and vertical opening within the wells to eliminate any possible leakage of oil to the surface or into surface or subsurface water supplies. The company said it expects to return in the fall to seed the former well pads with grass to help reclaim the area.

"They will be totally gone," the representative said. "You won't see them."

Ultra also owns about 18,000 acres in the Banning Lewis Ranch area. It had three state-issued permits to drill exploration wells within the city, but never used those permits..

A second Houston-based oil company, Hilcorp Energy, also abandoned oil exploration in El Paso County. The company had permits for two wells within the county, but only drilled and fractured one. Hilcorp, which is privately held, has not announced if it already has cemented, or when it will cement, its well.

That leaves Mustang Creek Holdings as the only oil company still operating within El Paso County. A division of Denver-based NexGen Oil & Gas, Mustang Creek hopes to begin exploratory drilling by the end of this year. The well will be just south of the intersection of Judge Orr and North Davenport roads.

If Mustang Creek or another company finds oil in El Paso County, Ultra might come back to its property and resume drilling.

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Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.

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