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About Utah: Sigurd's wells prove Utah is oil country

SIGURD, Sevier County — About three miles south of this farming community of 430 people, on the way to Fish Lake and, beyond that, Capitol Reef, the oil wells stick out like, well, like city people.

You couldn't miss them if you tried. It's like you turned the corner and there's Houston.

Welcome to the first oil boom in Utah in at least 25 years and the first in Sevier County since the dinosaurs died. Over the course of the past two years, the Wolverine Oil & Gas Corp., a Michigan-based company, has struck it rich with seven wells now in operation, another three ready to come on line and who knows how many more after that.

Upwards of 15 tanker trucks a day leave the Covenant Field Wells loaded with upwards of 3,000 barrels of crude. By the end of the year, as the new wells begin producing, that figure could be up to 4,000 barrels and beyond.

That'll run a lot of tractors.

If you drive by the new landscape, however, know this: You cannot fill up at the factory.

I found this out the hard way when I pulled up in my Subaru and asked Tony Cook, the products foreman, if I could fill my tank right there at the well. By avoiding all the middlemen, who knew how much a person could save.

Tony just laughed.

"I've lived in towns with refineries, and the price is still higher than anywhere else," he said. "It just doesn't work that way."

"Unfortunately, it doesn't come out of the ground already refined," added Paul Spiering, Wolverine Gas & Oil's district manager.

That doesn't mean the local citizenry isn't excited about oil in the back yard, however. Spiering cited a study conducted by local officials that showed 91 percent of area residents support the ongoing oil and gas development.

The statistic takes on added meaning when stacked alongside recent census information that shows that the median annual household income in the area is slightly less than $33,000 and 11.2 percent of the population falls below the poverty line.

"People are generally enthusiastic about what we're doing," Spiering said. "We have people asking us all the time, 'Hey, can you put one of those rigs in my front yard?' "

Exactly how big Covenant Fields will become and how long the boom will last is anyone's guess. As Standard Oil Co. could attest, finding oil isn't an exact science.

It was Standard that first acquired rights to explore the area in and around Sigurd half-a-century ago. One well was drilled in 1957 and a second in 1981. Both were dry. In 2000, Chevron Oil, a Standard subsidiary, sold area rights to Wolverine.

"They probably wish they'd looked at it harder," said Spiering.

The oil man quickly added that the Sigurd find is hardly world-shattering news in the energy business. "Compared to the daily consumption of the whole United States, it's still just a drop in that bucket," he said.

But a drop in the bucket is bigger than no drop at all. The bottom line is that Sigurd is now in the oil business, and just as prices at the pump are cruising past $3 a gallon.

"We're new and we're substantial," is how Jan Dastrup, the office manager at Wolverine's field office in Richfield, proudly put it.

"I think we're good for 30 years and then some," said Tony Cook.

Oil! In Sigurd! Kind of rolls right off your tongue, doesn't it?


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.