The Western States and Tribal Nations Natural Gas Initiative (WSTN) released a study that analyzed the potential economic and societal benefits that could result from increased development, transport and consumption of natural gas from the Piceance and Uinta basins of Colorado and Utah and the Greater Green River Basin of Wyoming. The study showed that a massive natural gas resource base currently exists in these regions and that significant local, regional and national economic benefits would result from developing that natural gas and taking it to markets in the U.S. and around the world. Developing markets for natural gas between the states of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming will significantly strengthen and benefit the economies of these states.
Due to its unique attributes, natural gas supplies from these western basins should be the logical first choice for any Western U.S. or Pacific Rim market. The Piceance Basin is a mature producing basin in seven counties in Western Colorado where over 12,000 wells have been drilled.[i] The U.S. Geological Survey reports the Mancos Shale region of the play shows enormous world-class potential with estimates of about 66.3 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas in place.[ii] Utah’s Uinta Basin also has a strong history of gas production and with trillions of potential cubic feet of gas in largely untapped unconventional resources. The Greater Green River Basin holds an estimated 979 billion cubic feet of probable natural gas and an additional 5.696 Tcf of possible reserves and 1.684 Tcf of speculative reserves.[iii]
By creating new markets for gas in these basins, the number of drilling rigs and production facilities will increase and with new well drilled will come additional jobs. Assuming gas demand is increased and additional wells are drilled, employment will increase on a cumulative basis as more drilling rigs are put to work.
According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, in 2015 the oil and natural gas industry contributed 66,800 jobs and $3.5 billion in employee wages in Utah. In Colorado, oil and gas operations added 232,900 jobs and accounted for more than $23 billion in wages. Wyoming benefited from oil and gas development to the tune of 57,500 jobs bringing more than $4.3 billion in wages. These jobs represent the truck drivers, engineers, rig hands, construction workers and contractors who make oil and gas production and delivery possible. Their wages invigorate these states’ economies via real estate or vehicle purchases, local small businesses and hospitality destinations such as restaurants and hotels. In total, oil and gas provides over $7.4 billion to Utah, over $31.3 billion to Colorado, and almost $9 billion to Wyoming in value-added economic impact, including employee compensation, proprietors’ income, income to capital owners from property and indirect business taxes.[iv]
It is clear that the local and regional economic benefits of natural gas development from these western basins is substantial and that the future looks bright. However, that bright future is dependent on Piceance, Uinta, and Greater Green River natural gas making its way to growing markets in the U.S. and globally. There are substantial hurdles in taking that gas to market as this gas must complete with gas from other producing basins in the U.S., many of which are producing abundant quantities of both oil and gas resulting from the U.S. shale revolution. However, the gas produced in these basins is both prolific and competitive as compared to other regions in the U.S.