U.S. to approve major Anadarko natgas project in Utah

WASHINGTON Mon May 7, 2012 8:04pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Anadarko Petroleum Corp's plan to develop a huge natural gas field in Utah is expected to get the go-ahead from the Obama administration during a visit to the state on Tuesday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The department's approval will allow Anadarko to move ahead with its proposal to drill about 3,700 new wells over 10 years in an existing field in Utah's Uinta Basin.

"Extending the life of the activity in the Greater Natural Buttes area and keeping high production levels going for another decade will lead to lower energy costs and more jobs for Utahns," Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said in a statement.

Anadarko first proposed the Utah project in 2006, but faced some delays over air quality concerns.

Interior released a final environmental review in favor of the project in April. At the time, Anadarko said it had reached a conservation agreement with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance that would help protect the environment during the drilling.

"It's really kind of a new model for prudent development," Anadarko spokesman John Christiansen said.

The approval of the natural gas project comes on the heels of the department's release last week of proposed new regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in natural gas development on public lands.

The Utah field is not in a shale gas play - where much of the attention on fracking has been. However, Christiansen said wells drilled in the field still require fracking, as do about 90 percent of gas wells drilled on federal lands.

Facing attacks over its approach to domestic fossil fuel development, the Obama administration has strongly defended its energy record and stressed its support for more oil and natural gas development.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Gary Hill)

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