Oil and Gas Program
Oil and Gas Program staff worked on the exploration and production waste disposal facilities five year permit renewals requiring operators to have full-cost bonding for their facilities. The state rule, modified and approved by the Utah Board of Oil, Gas and Mining in 2013, required an independent, third party review of reclamation and closure cost estimates be submitted by July 2018 and that the Division issue new permits for these facilities, which are valid for five years.
Twenty eight of the 30 facilities submitted permit applications by the deadline. Operators who did not submit an application are no longer permitted to operate; operators who do not post a full cost bond or otherwise fulfill the permit application requirements will not have their permits renewed and will not be allowed to operate. Operators without a valid permit will be required to reclaim their facilities.
Bonding protects the Division and the state of Utah against expensive reclamation costs requiring state funds.
The Uinta Basin has seen a boom in horizontal well development. There are presently about 200 horizontal wells drilled in the Basin. As operators drill more wells, they are becoming increasingly more productive with advancing technology and science. Industry experts have estimated that there are 55 billion barrels of oil in place in the Uinta Basin, and this production per section can compete with any other fields in the the country.
Over the last year, three program managers retired with over 95 years Division experience between them. In addition, two experienced field inspectors also left the Division. It is always difficult to replace institutional knowledge and it has been a challenge to replace those valuable employees. However, staff stepped up to fill these voids and we have moved forward with hiring new staff so the program can continue providing quality services to the state of Utah.
Coal Program staff oversaw the reclamation of the Horizon coal mine, a bond forfeiture site in Carbon County. It took roughly three months to remove the coal mine’s five-acre footprint and re-contour the site to match the surrounding landscape. Reclamation involved demolishing and sealing the portals, re-establishing the stream channels through the facility and parking fill pads, and applying topsoil, mulch and seed to the final contoured slopes.
The program had a very busy year with 69 permit amendments processed, 271 field inspections, 90 water quality reports produced, and two bond release applications. Program staff approved significant coal lease additions at several operations extending coal mining well into the future in Utah. Additionally, the Emery No. 2 Mine began producing coal in earnest this year and the Division has received a new permit application package for the construction of the Kinney No. 2 Mine located near Scofield Reservoir.
The program also saw the retirement of two long-time and devoted employees: Program Manager Daron Haddock and Biologist Joe Helfrich with 68 years of combined experience. A new program manager will be hired in February.
The Minerals Program received new applications for five large mines in 2018. Three are for engineered rock products and two are for salts. The most significant application is the Sevier Playa project which is proposed to produce 328,500 tons of potassium sulfate fertilizer annually. This project would cover much of the bed of Sevier Lake and would include other processing and transportation facilities. The Division is not yet ready to approve the project.
The Scipio Pass quarry has been issued tentative approval and would disturb 160 acres near I-15 in Millard County. Clyde Companies anticipates producing 200,000 tons of aggregate products per year for the first five years, with the life of mine currently expected to be 30 years. Two other large mines for aggregate products have been proposed for Washington County.
Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program
In 2018, the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program (AMRP) completed three coal and six non-coal abandoned mine reclamation projects. Work consisted of the construction of 1,600 feet of stream channel at Kenilworth, a previously reclaimed abandoned coal mine, the installation of a concrete plug and backfilling of a subsidence hole with over 13,000 cubic yards of fill material, and the closure of approximately 243 hazardous abandoned mine openings statewide. In addition, maintenance was performed at 15 previously closed abandoned mine sites.
The program received an award for work completed on the Wolf Den Fire reclamation project in the Uintah Basin. The National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs (NAAMLP) publicly recognized Utah for the exemplary physical safety hazard mitigation in the reclamation of abandoned hard rock mines and presented them the nation’s highest achievement at its annual conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. Steve Fluke, AMRP manager and AMRP Archaeologist Seth Button attended the banquet and accepted the award.
Education outreach efforts included the distribution of more than 23,000 “Mining Utah’s Heritage” workbooks to 4th grade classes, designing and printing 1,700 calendars for distribution featuring historic coal mines from Carbon County’s Spring Canyon, and participating in 13 public outreach events.