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CBM Resource Development in Ecologically Sensitive Environments--Vermejo Park Ranch, New Mexico -- A Case Study

Richard A. Larson1, Gustav J. Holm1, and John Lorenz2. (1) Environmental Department, Vermejo Park Ranch, P.O. Drawer E, Raton, NM 87740, phone: 505-445-2059, fax: 505-445-3474, [email protected], (2) Sandia National Laboratories, MS 0750, P.O. Box 5800, Albuquerque, NM 87185-5800

Vermejo Park Ranch (VPR) is a 588,00 acre privately owned ranch located in Northeastern New Mexicos Raton Basin. VPR is a premier hunting and fishing destination and working bison ranch, with a highly diverse range of ecological environments. Coal Bed Methane resource development is being conducted under a unique partnership between the Surface Estate Owner and Mineral Estate Owner (El Paso Corporation). The parties are in the 4th year of a planned 8 year development program with 511 wells on production through 2004.

The Raton Basin is a Laramide-age strucural basin on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Coal Bed Methane is produced from Late Cretaceous (Vermejo) to Early Paleocene (Raton) Formations.

Vermejo and El Paso have voluntarily entered into an agreement that governs how CBM resource development operations proceed on the Ranch, the Mineral Extraction Agreement (MEA). This agreement is unique in the industry and provides the guidelines, checks, balances, and requirements for CBM development. It also provides a framework for VPR's environmental staff to work closely with the operators development staff. MEA specifics will be presented and discussed.

Using GIS and GPS technologies, satellite imagery, and wildlife/forestry management tools, the development phase of the project is being completed in such a manner as to minimize both short and long term adverse effects to VPR resources and values, while allowing for the efficient development and production of coalbed methane gas.