Search back on in the Mat-Su for coal bed methane

PHOTO Courtesy Tesoro Alaska
WASILLA - A Canadian company is planning to drill a test well for coal bed methane in the Mat-Su area early next year.

Storm Cat Energy Corp. is looking for conventional natural gas with the test well, said chief executive Scott Zimmerman, but the project will also let the company evaluate the presence of coal bed methane.

Zimmerman said Storm Cat hasn’t decided where the test well would go, but said it would be on land near Big Lake.

Officials with Storm Cat said any production would be handled responsibly.

Before joining Storm Cat, Zimmerman worked as a vice president for Evergreen Resources. Evergreen’s pursuit of coal bed methane in the Valley sparked fears of spoiled drinking water and noisy equipment on private property. The hubbub spurred the borough to change the rules governing coal bed methane development, setting standards for where companies can put wells and for notifying residents when drilling is proposed.

The coal bed methane controversy caused former state Sen. Scott Ogan to resign last year. He faced a recall effort launched by Valley residents partly because he worked on Evergreen’s payroll as a consultant.

Evergreen eventually was acquired by another company and gave up most of its oil and gas leases in the area.

Friends of Mat-Su, a watchdog group, pushed for tighter borough rules on drilling.

"People think this has gone away. Nobody’s been paying a lot of attention to it," Friends of Mat-Su director Kathy Wells said.

Storm Cat is a small oil and gas exploration company with offices in Calgary and Alberta, Canada, and Denver.

On its Web site, Storm Cat boasts of rights to more than 35,000 acres in the Cook Inlet region. That includes the land near Big Lake and tracts south of Wasilla.

Coal bed methane is the chief component in natural gas. For decades, Cook Inlet gas fields have supplied Anchorage and the Mat-Su with fuel for heat and power, and proponents of coal bed methane exploration hope it could lower fuel costs locally.

12/03/2005 - 8:00pm