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Natural Resources & Energy

Minerals committee discusses process for exploring untapped resources, as well as state rig count 

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The Wyoming legislature’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development committee met with industry experts for two days this week in Casper. A number of topics were discussed, largely including oil and gas drilling.

There was lengthy discussion on oil and gas federal exploratory units, which are an arrangement between companies and property owners to search for untapped resources in the state.

Many people in the state agree there are issues with the process. Namely, many Wyoming property owners feel they can be taken advantage of regarding complicated contracts and missing profits.

“There were an awful lot of mineral owners out there that did not get the bargain that they thought that they bargained for,” Heather Jacobson, Douglas attorney representing local mineral surface owners, said to the committee.

Committee members agreed to explore resolutions in the future – although specifics remain unclear.

Members also questioned why there is not a higher rig count in the state, while oil and gas prices are high. As of last week, there were 15 active rigs in Wyoming. At its height in 2006, the state averaged 99 rigs.

Steve Degenfelder is the land manager at Kirkwood Oil and Gas in Casper. He told the committee it’s a product of a capitalist environment.

“During 2020, we had the Arab-Russian price war, and then COVID occurred and eroded all that demand,” he said. “A lot of people, especially in the service industry, were laid off, rigs were scrapped. We’ll recover, it’ll just take some time and it can't be turned on like a faucet.”

Representative Chuck Gray of Natrona County asked if there was anything specific the legislature could do to spur the industry. Degenfelder said, “No,” however, he thinks it will recover eventually.

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