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GILLETTE — A new geographic information system with a mapping program is expected to help reduce emergency response times to coalbed methane wells by 75 percent.

The system is expected to be fully operational by mid to late June, according to Cathy Raney, Campbell County's GIS coordinator.

The Williams Co., one of the Powder River Basin's major coalbed methane producers, developed the system by overlaying its well and pod site locations on an electronic road map of the county.

"We started making it for ourselves then realized the benefit to the county," said Chuck Dobkins, Williams safety specialist.

Dispatchers for the Campbell County Sheriff's Office will be able to relay exact site directions to officers, the county fire department and emergency services.

Response times currently can extend as long as two hours because the sites are often remote off unmarked roads and out of sight of main roads.

With the new system, a dispatcher can enter the well site or pod number into the computer and immediately get directions.

Laura Ostrem, communications supervisor for the Sheriff's Office, said the department will also be able to give directions to rescue helicopters.

"We don't get a lot of calls from the well and pod sites but when we do, it's typically major and more than one injury," she said.

Developing the mapping system took about eight months. It involved getting global positioning system locations for all the county's roads and methane-related infrastructure.

Williams has more than 4,000 well sites in Campbell County. Raney said she will now seek information from the other methane developers.

"I'd like to have it before the system is up but we'll be doing periodic updates anyway," she said.

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