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The recently suggested Colorado ballot initiative #78 proposes a mandatory 2,500-foot setback between new oil and gas wells or re-entries and any ”occupied structure” or ”area of special concern”. A review published by the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) indicates that approximately 90% of the surface acreage in Colorado would be unavailable for future oil and gas development or hydraulic fracturing if this initiative was approved (Figure 1). This rule’s most influential part is the proximity to ”areas of special concern” which includes water bodies of small and large sizes, making up a significant part of Colorado. The proximity to ”occupied structures” can be considered manageable, compromising only 22% of the state’s total surface area. If only the largest water bodies were considered in the setback rule, the impact on the awarded land would be significantly lower.
Rystad Energy’s GIS analysis confirms that an average of 90.8% of the current licensed acreage will not be available for future drilling. This includes conventional and hydraulically fractured wells, affecting all current acreage holders in the state. The two largest shale acreage holders in Colorado, Noble Energy and Anadarko, will be significantly affected if this initiative is approved (Figure 2).
For Anadarko, 98.2% of its awarded shale acreage is within the proposed limits, while this value is 90.5% for Noble Energy. Other acreage holders will also be affected, as shown in Figure 3.
The area in the restricted zones includes 4,685 horizontal wells in total, which will not be considered for re-entry, according to the rule. The restricted area also includes 2,394 wells, which are currently under permit status. In future, at least 9,650 wells would not be drilled if the rule is approved.