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Natural gas drilling operation near Sunnyside shut down

A drilling operation looking for natural gas just outside of Sunnyside is on hiatus.

The project, situated north of Sunnyside, near Highway 241, milepost 17, began in November 2005 and included a huge drill that dwarfed a nearby crane.

Project Supervisor Bill Delahoussaye said this week that work on the project has stopped as a "reevaluating" process is underway.

The Sunnyside site was the second of three test drill locations in Washington state.

The drilling operation is part of a long-term effort by Sierra Engineering of Houston, contracted by Denver-based Encana Oil and Gas (USA), Inc. to oversee natural gas drilling here.

Initial plans called for Encana to drill down 15,000 feet, with the idea that it could take four years before it would know if there is enough natural gas to make it all worthwhile.

"It always has been an exploratory process," noted Encana spokesperson Wendy Wiedenbeck. "We have temporarily plugged that well and we're onto the third well."

She said Encana is evaluating information gleaned from the Sunnyside drill site to determine the project's future.

"We'll take all the data, then determine if we have an economically viable project," she said. "Then we'll decide from there what steps need to be taken."

Information on the third drill site in this state was unavailable as of press time. But Wiedenbeck did say that the geology is different and may take longer than four years to determine whether it is viable.

"It's new territory, we're not drilling basalt," she said. "There's a learning curve as we're closer to understanding the geology."

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