By Joshua Wood, Cowboy State Daily
Gaining access to a billion-barrel oil reserve discovered in Wyoming won’t be impossible, but it may be improbable according to an oil and gas industry representative.
Last week, Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited announced it had confirmed the presence of a 993-million barrel oil reserve in Natrona and Converse counties.
Ryan McConnaughey, Vice President and Director of Communications for the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, said the billion-barrel oil reserve would be “a massive deal for the state of Wyoming.”
“If this reserve is proven to be true and they have actually found a billion barrels of oil, that would more than double the proven reserve of oil and gas in Wyoming,” said McConnaughey. “It would be significant.”
As significant as the reserve would be for Wyoming, McConnaughey said there could be hurdles from the federal government. A significant amount of land in both Natrona and Converse counties is owned by the federal government. Additionally, more than half of the mineral estates in Wyoming are owned by the federal government.
“Given the area that this discovery is reported to be in, being heavily in both federal surface lands and federal mineral estates, the ability of companies to extract that is going to be very highly dependent on regulations that we see coming out at the federal level,” said McConnaughey.
A friendly administration that sees the importance of domestic energy production would mean the state could see a high return of investment on the find, said McConnaughey. Hostile administrations such as President Joe Biden’s, would drastically reduce that return.
When announcing the discovery, Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited said it would be drilling three Frontier wells with two of them being horizontal. If the federal government isn’t willing to give drilling operations the go ahead on federal land, the company could potentially find a parcel of private land to set up and drill horizontally to the reserve.
McConnaughey said while horizontal drilling a well to the reserve could be possible, but difficult as the federal government owns 70% of the mineral estate in Wyoming.
“If the company has the ability to drill a horizontal well somewhere that is all on private or state lands, then they’d be able to do that without federal interference,” said McConnaughey. “Given the significant ownership of federal land and, specifically, federal mineral estate in Wyoming I think that’ll be very difficult to do.”