Can Oil Discovery in Utah be Real Thing?

Can Oil Discovery in Utah be Real Thing?

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John Hollenhorst ReportingA major oil discovery in Central Utah is causing excitement in the industry and has people in Sevier County dreaming of a huge economic boost. Some claim it could be the biggest oil find in 30 years, but could it all turn out to be a false hope?

For more than a year, the goings on around this drill-site have been a closely guarded secret. But the rumor mill heated up when big trucks started showing up to haul away Black Gold.

Doug Peterson, Sevier County Commission Chairman: "If it's as large as rumors say, it could have a tremendous impact for the citizens of Sevier County."

State geologists were astonished with the two new wells producing 800 barrels a day.

Tom Chidsey, Utah Geological Survey: "Which is a phenomenal amount of oil for a Utah well. It's good anywhere, really."

Soon, industry gossip went sky-high: there may be a billion barrels of oil deep underground. It’s the biggest on-shore discovery in 30-years, some said. With oil companies in a bidding frenzy for leases, the oil-man at the center of it all jetted into Richfield from the Michigan headquarters of Wolverine Gas & Oil.

Sid Jansma, Pres., Wolverine Gas & Oil: "I have been spinning it cautiously all the way along."

Sid Jansma clearly wants to dampen speculation, but he acknowledges five Wolverine wells out of five have hit oil.

Sid Jansma, Pres., Wolverine Gas & Oil: "I am very excited by what we've found so far. And who wouldn't be? It's a wonderful gift from God, really to have a discovery like this, especially if you're a little company from Grand Rapids, Michigan."

But skeptics wonder if this could turn out to be what the industry calls a 'one-field wonder', meaning you hit it really big here and come up dry everywhere else.

Tom Chidsey, Utah Geological Survey: "There is a lot of potential in there for additional targets. Whether they all have something in there or not, there's only one way to find out. And that's to drill."

Sid Jansma: "The speculation that there are a billion barrels here, or I have heard as high as four billion by one of the senators, is just speculation. And it would be nice if that was true."

But local officials are already totaling up the pros and cons of a huge energy boom.

Doug Peterson: "I'm sure it's going to have a negative impact on our small town atmosphere, quality of life type of stuff. But overall it's a positive impact."

That is, of course, if it ever happens. Next week, Sevier County leaders plan to visit Evanston, Wyoming for a first-hand look at the good and the bad of energy development.

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