Energy trade association: Regional leasing activity declining

Oil and natural gas leasing activity dropped significantly in Rocky Mountain states during the 2011 fiscal year, according to an analysis by an energy trade association of federal leasing statistics.

The Western Energy Alliance reported that since 2008, lease parcels offered have dropped 70 percent, acreage 81 percent and revenue 44 percent.

The Denver-based trade association represents more than 400 companies involved in energy production.

North Dakota remains the exception to the regional decline with recent discoveries of significant oil reserves in the Bakken formation there. North Dakota leasing, while surpassing 2008 by only 416 acres, garnered $104 million in revenue, up 112 percent.

There were a few other bright spots in the region with the Bakken formation in Montana and Niobrara formation in Wyoming, the Western Energy Alliance reported. Although Montana lease acreage offered was down 58 percent, revenue was up 119 percent. The Bureau of Land Management held its most profitable Wyoming sale in history in August, generating $49 million. Overall revenues for the 2011 fiscal year were down 33 percent, however.

“The Bakken and Niobrara formations are contributing lease revenues that help to reduce government deficits today, while holding the promise of future development and production,” said Kathleen Sgamma, director of government and public affairs for the Western Energy Alliance.

“High value lease sales in these areas indicate industry interest and the potential for significant new government revenue. Now that BLM has worked through its new leasing policies, we hope it will offer sufficient acreage in FY 2012 to more closely align with industry interest and enable companies to increase jobs and economic activity across the West,” Sgamma said.

At the same time, though, the BLM offered just four parcels in Colorado in 2011 and only 17 in Utah.

“These numbers clearly show there is interest in producing from public lands in the Rockies, but the government is constraining access,” Sgamma said. “Without access to public lands, oil and natural gas companies will not be able to achieve the full job and economic growth potential of the West.”

The Western Energy Alliance recently published a study titled “The Blueprint for Western Energy Prosperity.” The study was conducted by EIS Solutions, a firm that handles government affairs and public relations for companies involved in the energy industry. The findings were based on data analysis by ICF International, a consulting firm that provides services to the energy industry and a range of other sectors.

The study projects that by 2020, the West could produce 1.3 million barrels of domestic oil and condensate and 6.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas a year.

By one estimate, capital investment in the energy sector in the region would increase to $58 billion in 2020 — more than double the 2010 level of $28 billion.

The number of direct, indirect and induced jobs related to the energy sector similarly would increase from 434,373 in 2010 to more than 504,120 in 2020 — a gain of 16 percent. Colorado payrolls related to the energy industry are projected to grow 26,000 over that span.

“Our blueprint demonstrates that we can displace significant imports from Russia, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Algeria, Nigeria, and Colombia, but not if access to prospective lands in the West is denied,” Sgamma said.