Greater Sage-Grouse study final results released
Year five of five-year study findings
by Joint media release
October 29, 2012
Wyoming Wildlife Consultants, LLC (WWC), Ultra Petroleum (Ultra), SWEPI LP (Shell), and QEP Energy Company (QEP) have released the final report for a $1.4 million, five-year sage-grouse study designed to determine if natural gas infrastructure on the Pinedale Anticline in Wyoming influences habitat selection by wintering greater sage-grouse.
The report "Greater Sage-grouse Winter Habitat Selection Relative to Natural Gas Field Infrastructure in Northern Portions of the Pinedale Anticline Project Area Sublette County, Wyoming" presents the final report compiling the prior years’ data from the study.
Unlike the preliminary data presented in the 2008 and 2009 annual reports which suggested that sage-grouse were avoiding habitats near natural gas development with relatively high levels of activity, the 2009-2010 data suggests that well pad density may be a bigger factor than human activity in avoidance of winter habitats by sage-grouse. However, the final report also suggested that collecting liquids related to natural gas development off-site via an LGS may reduce the impact of development to sage-grouse habitat selection. An LGS, which Ultra, Shell and QEP Energy Company proposed and are implementing on the Anticline, is a system of pipelines used to move condensate and produced water from the well pads to centralized gathering facilities and trunk pipelines. The LGS system largely replaces the trucks that were formerly used to haul fluids.
Matt Holloran, Senior Ecologist for WWC said, "Sage-grouse certainly appear to be avoiding areas with high well pad densities during the winter. However, the results additionally suggest that sage-grouse may be avoiding well pads with decreased human activity to a lesser degree than those with more activity. Given the potential biological importance of decreased functional habitat loss as a result of management actions and the fact that many wells on the study area were converted to LGS during the study—potentially influencing our ability to detect an effect given the strong fidelity to seasonal ranges exhibited by the species—a follow-up investigation of population-level reaction to LGS may be warranted in 5 to 10 years."
"The data from the previous years’ studies must be taken into account when looking at the 2009-2010 data in the final report regarding potential benefits to sage-grouse distribution from the use of liquids gathering systems," said Aimee Davison, Senior Regulatory Specialist for Shell. "We are convinced that the previous years’ data showing the benefits of the LGS to winter habitat selection by sage-grouse remains important, particularly since the LGS was only recently installed in many of the areas studied. The LGS is in its infancy and the benefits to all wildlife including sage-grouse as a result of the cumulative decrease in human activity must be viewed in the long term."
It is estimated that once the LGS is operational field-wide it will reduce truck traffic by 165,000 trips per year when the field is at maximum production.
Using radio-transmitting collars and data-loggers, sage-grouse presence was recorded at defined habitat patches on the Pinedale Anticline. The study compared habitat containing pads with active winter drilling, pads both with and without LGS, plowed main haul roads, and control areas. Researchers studied the length of time and number of visits sage-grouse made to the distinct habitat patches relative to the level of and type of development activity occurring near these patches.
The Greater Sage-grouse study was conducted by WWC and funded by Ultra, Shell, and QEP. The final report presenting data and analyses from the five-year research project has been jointly released by WWC, Ultra, Shell, and QEP and is being made available to both the Bureau of Land Management and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. A complete copy of the final report is also available to the public and can be accessed online at www.PAPAoperators.com.