By Dave Gragg
Finding enough natural gas to make digging a well worth the while isn’t the problem around Tucumcari, said Rick Partain.
“Geologists think there’s 30 to 40 years worth of natural gas in the Tucumcari Basin,” he said. “That’s a long time.”
The trick is to get the natural gas to market.
That’s where Partain comes in. He’s in charge of building a 30-mile pipeline from gas wells in Montoya to a yet-to-be-constructed processing plant seven miles outside of Tucumcari.
CKG Energy, an Austin, Texas-based company, began drilling exploratory wells in September near Montoya.
They now have seven wells finished and will begin drilling an eighth this week, Partain said. But if everything goes as planned, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The company began building the 12-inch pipeline in March with an eye on expansion, he said. It will be able to transport 150 million cubic feet of natural gas a day — enough capacity for 150 wells.
“This whole thing is looking at that 150 MCF figure,” he said.
That still isn’t all, Partain said. By compressing the gas or increasing the pressure, the pipeline could handle the production of a potential 400 natural gas wells, not all of which would be CKG’s.
Other companies have bought or are looking at buying natural gas rights in other parts of the basin. Partain said the key to making those wells profitable will be CKG’s pipeline, which will gather the gas and send it to a natural gas refinery planned by Kendall Energy Inc.
“There have been natural gas holes punched here before, but no place to go with it,” he said.
Gas wells will connect to the main pipeline via flow lines that connect to laterals. Those laterals will dump into the main pipeline, which will flow into Kendall’s refinery.
Kendall, a Houston-based company working closely with CKG, announced in April it would build a refinery with an initial capacity of 18 MCF a day that could be expanded.
Partain said it would probably be a larger plant than that. A Kendall spokesman could not be reached on Tuesday.
The refined gas will join PNM’s line near Tucumcari, but the production could outgrow PNM’s capacity. If that happens, CKG may have to build another pipeline to join the Trans-Western pipeline near Clovis, Partain said.
If all goes as planned, Partain said the wells, pipeline and refinery will be up and going by August or September.
Without all three components, the company cannot make money.
“Right now, all the money is going out, with none coming in,” Partain said.
The entire project was a risk CKG founder and president Mike George was willing to take, Partain said.
“CKG had to guts to take the risk,” he said. “Somebody had to be the first one.”
o Clearing the right of way
o Digging the ditch
o Stringing 42-foot sections of pipe (called joints) along the ditch
o Bending the joints to fit the land profile (up and down as well as side to side)
o Welding the joints together
o Lowering the pipe into the ground
o Tying the pipe in to the supply and destination of the gas
o Filling in the ditch
o Dehydration system to remove water
o Ammine process to remove “sours” such as hydrogen sulfide (which is actually not found in the Tucumcari Basin)
o Subject the gas to super-cold temperatures to take liquids out
o Compress, meter, sample and test the gas before it goes to the commercial line
Natural gas byproducts:
Extra fluid that comes from the raw natural gas is called Y-Grade mix and sent to a fractionalization plant where it can be further refined into:
o A mixture of ethane and propane is the basis of all plastics
o A 25-million-cubic-feet plant such as the one planned by Kendall Energy Inc. will produce 5,000 to 6,000 barrels of Y-Grade a day.