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CODY, Wyo. — The Bureau of Land Management said the draft of its Bighorn Basin resource management plan was written with enhanced oil recovery in mind and could facilitate the process if it comes to the basin’s aging oil fields.

The agency detailed sections of its draft resource management plan this week, offering a rebuttal to Gov. Matt Mead, who criticized the BLM during a recent energy tour for failing to recognize the potential of enhanced oil recovery and the use of carbon dioxide (CO2) when writing its plan.

While the agency continues to work with Mead in developing a Wyoming energy policy, the BLM says, it has been working for five years now to facilitate the use of C02 in the recovery of hard-to-reach oil, and that work is reflected in its draft plan.

“The Bighorn Basin RMP not only allows for enhanced oil recovery, but also facilitates enhanced oil recovery by providing the right-of-way corridors to service those fields,” said Caleb Hiner, the project leader for the BLM’s new plan.

Part of Wyoming’s energy plan, Mead has said, must include good mapping to identify pipeline and transmission corridors. In the Bighorn Basin, BLM officials say, that much of that mapping has already taken place.

Duane Feick, a realty specialist with the BLM, spread a series of maps across the table this week and explained how the agency began meeting with Marathon Oil and other energy companies in 2006 to discuss, map and identify energy corridors that could accommodate a future C02 pipeline.

“Back in 2006, we had a session with Marathon, and they studied bringing a C02 pipeline to the basin,” Feick said. “In 2007, we met with them again and talked about what corridors they thought would work for their fields, so this has been looked at quite a bit over the years.”

Feick said the agency collected GPS files from several companies that use the existing corridors before “ground truthing” the maps to ensure they were accurate.

The region’s largest energy corridor, Feick noted, connects Billings and Casper and crosses the Bighorn Basin on a north-south run near the Bighorn River. It includes an express oil pipeline managed by Kinder Morgan and a large gas line managed by WBI.

This corridor, Feick said, could accommodate a new C02 pipeline. To reach the basin’s oil fields, the line would be likely to branch off near Lovell and run west, connecting the fields near Garland and Byron.

Feick said the line would then cut southwest, following an existing energy corridor to the Oregon Basin south of Cody.

“We felt that route would have that pretty well covered,” Feick said. “Most of the infrastructure for oil and gas that’s in the basin seems to be adequate, unless there’s a new major field discovered. We haven’t been getting any new applications for major new rights of way.”

Mead believes that oil companies will look closely at new technology to extract up to 1 billion barrels of oil that may remain in the basin’s mature oil fields.

Because the oil is there, Mead said, the infrastructure needed to extract it is likely to follow. The state’s job, he said, is to make that process easier and work with the BLM to ensure it has identified the necessary energy corridors.

“What an attractive thing for a company to come in and see that most of the groundwork has been done,” Mead said. “If you have a billion barrels of oil in the ground you can produce by tertiary oil recovery, that’s a hard thing for companies to ignore. Because the oil is there, the infrastructure will come.”

Feick said it’s not the first time a CO2 pipeline has been discussed in the Bighorn Basin.

“Interestingly, the CO2 line to the basin has been thought about several times in the past,” Feick said. “Back in the 1980s, there was even an (environmental study) for a pipeline that was going to come here, but that didn’t happen.”

Contact Martin Kidston at mkidston@billingsgazette.com or 307-527-7250.

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