Welcome to the first edition of The Drill Down, the Utah
Division of Oil, Gas and Mining’s (OGM) quarterly newsletter. Our goal is to keep you informed of Division projects and accomplishments and educate Utahns on how energy and mineral development in Utah affects our quality of life.
The Division reviews applications and grants approvals for drilling and mining activities in Utah. Additionally, OGM monitors compliance with regulations and maintains public records for the extractive operations taking place in the state.
There are four programs operated under OGM: Oil and Gas, Minerals, Coal and Abandoned Mine Reclamation. Each program plays a vital role in managing Utah’s resources by ensuring responsible development, protecting public safety and preserving the environment.
The Oil and Gas Program is responsible for providing drilling permits, completing site inspections to ensure compliance both before and after drilling, monitoring well completions and overseeing the abandonment and plugging of wells no longer in operation. The program was established in 1955 to prevent the waste of oil and natural gas, encourage conservation and protect correlative rights of oil and natural gas owners.
Currently there are 4,813 oil wells and 7,179 natural gas wells operating statewide. The majority of Utah’s oil and gas is produced in Uintah, Duchesne, San Juan, Carbon, Emery, Summit and Grand counties.
Oil and gas production plays a vital role to Utah’s economy by providing energy-related jobs, boosting local businesses and generating oil and gas tax revenues. The demand for reliable and affordable energy is essential for the well-being of our state. Utah plays a major part in sustaining petroleum production and ranks 11th in oil and gas production in the United States.
The Division supports the environmentally responsible development of essential petroleum resources with a commitment to public safety, needs and education. Staff is committed to protecting the environment through the regulatory processes that monitor the growth of responsible energy development.
In addition to the affordable energy provided by oil and gas production, many other products are made from petroleum. Products made from or byproducts of petroleum include asphalt, ink, crayons, bubble gum, tires, skis, hand lotion, lipstick, movie film, soft contact lenses and much more. Natural gas is an essential raw material for many products such as paint, fertilizer, plastics, antifreeze, medicines and explosives.
The Minerals Program regulates all non-coal mining operations in the state with a few exceptions. From Kennecott Copper, the largest open-mined pit in the state to small operations mining for trilobite fossils, staff works to ensure mining operation procedures are followed. This includes verifying operators work within permit boundaries, mines pose no threat to public safety or the environment and confirming appropriate fees/bonds are collected for reclamation.
According to preliminary 2014 data from the U.S. Geological Survey, Utah ranks 5th in the value of non-fuel mineral production, accounting for approximately 5.4 percent of the United States total. In 2014, copper was the largest contributor to the value of non-fuel minerals in Utah, having an estimated value of $1.5-billion and mostly produced from Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation’s Bingham Canyon Mine. Source: Utah’s Extractive Resource Industries 2014
There are almost 200 different minerals mined in Utah including copper, gold, silver and beryllium. Currently there are more than 600 permitted mineral operations statewide.
The Coal Program is responsible for providing permits to coal companies, completing site inspections to confirm compliance and overseeing the reclamation and bond release process. Ensuring provisions of the coal rules are followed allows for continued extraction of coal to occur in a way that reduces and/or eliminates long term impacts to the environment.
Take a look at the interactive map that explores Utah’s coal mines permitted by the Division.
Coal extraction is important to Utah. In 2014, six Utah coal operators produced 17.9-million short tons of coal valued at $600 million. Communities in Carbon and Emery counties rely on the coal industry to provide jobs and stimulate their local economies.
When a mining operation ends, the operator is responsible for reclaiming and restoring the area as close to its pre-mined condition as possible. Once requirements are met, a 10-year period begins and the site is monitored to assure reclamation is successful. After this period, the bond is released. Several notable reclamation projects have occurred in the state including the DesBee Dove Mine, Star Point and White Oak.
Utah has a history rich in mining including copper, silver and uranium. Often when mines no longer produced, they were simply abandoned leaving equipment, open shafts, tunnels and piles of waste rock. In 1975, the Utah Mined Reclamation Act was passed making it illegal for mines to be abandoned. Today there are an estimated 17,000 mine openings scattered across Utah.
The Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (AMRP) works to protect the public from dangers of old mines by sealing off access to openings and cleaning up waste. Old mining sites can be intriguing to unsuspecting explorers but can contain dangerous gases, unstable structures and explosives.
The Copper Ridge and Knight Ideal projects are two of many projects completed in the past year.
The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM), Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program permanently closed 17 hazardous mine openings including five shafts, with funding provided by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The 12 uranium mine openings were located in close proximity to a popular mountain bike and jeep trail in the Klondike Bluffs area north of Moab. The copper mines were located in the North Klondike Bluffs area, near the Baby Steps Recreational Trail.
The mines were closed using grates, polyurethane foam and waste rock to prevent people from accessing the sites. Abandoned mines often provide habitat for bats. Rebar grates are often installed to prevent people from entering, while still allowing bats access. At several of the mine openings complete backfilling was the only option to protect the public from high radon levels.
The mines are located on BLM land. DOGM assisted the BLM with closing abandoned mine features, which were a priority due to their proximity to areas with high visitation and recreation use.
The 19-acre Knight-Ideal Loadout Project involved reclaiming an abandoned coal loading facility in the town of Wellington at a total cost of $2.4 million.
The project excavated and disposed of approximately 31,500 cubic yards (cy) of coal refuse, 2,500 cy of structural debris and 650 tons of other debris; 58 tons of scrap steel was recycled. Roughly 10,500 cy of contaminated soil was excavated and removed to an offsite landfill. Reclamation began in October 2012 and was completed December 2014.
Once the site was reclaimed, abandoned mine reclamation staff partnered with Wellington City and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to build a community fishing pond on the property, greatly improving the quality, safety and functionality of the site.
In 2011, Utah legislators approved funding for a minerals and petroleum literacy program sponsored and managed by the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining. The goal was to provide Utah educators with a high quality, teacher-friendly, interactive geology program exceeding the state standards for 4th grade earth science curriculum.
The program includes a four-hour teacher workshop, where a qualified science instructor walks teachers through the program, demonstrating key teaching and science lab opportunities. Teachers receive a guidebook with information for each unit, lab activities, online and offline resources, handouts and lesson outlines for each science unit. Student lab books include factual data, writing activities, graphing and lab activities. Each teacher receives a classroom kit containing mineral specimens and materials necessary to conduct lab activities.
Since the beginning of the program, approximately one-fourth of all Utah 4th grade teachers have been trained and over 16,500 students are reached annually.