Editor Greg Ettling's thoughts on industry-related issues.

Money for Water Wells

The final rule on the Household Water Well System (HWWS) Grant Program officially took effect recently. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has issued regulations to establish the grant program as authorized by the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act. The HWWS Program provides grants to private, non-profit organizations, which, in turn, will use the funds to set up a loan program, making loans to eligible individuals for household water well systems. Eligible individuals may use the loans to construct, refurbish and service individual household water well systems that they own or will own in rural areas. Additionally, the rule outlines the process by which applicants can apply for the program and describes how RUS will be administering the grant program.

Drilling contractors would do well to stay on top of this program and its participants as it may offer opportunities that might not otherwise have existed. Official contact information: Cheryl Francis, loan specialist, Water Programs Division, Rural Utilities Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 2239-S, Stop 1570, Washington, D.C., 20250-1570. Telephone 202-720-1937; e-mail Cheryl.Francis@usda.gov.

It's Over in Florida

The State of Florida struck a deal with Coastal Petroleum Co. to forever eliminate the potential for oil drilling in state waters. In exchange for $12.5 million, Coastal has agreed to surrender all rights and interests in the last remaining oil leases in Florida waters putting an end to more than 15 years of legal wrangling.

Coastal was granted three leases for oil exploration and production in the 1940s, including a lease for some inland lakes and two tracts within 10 miles of the Florida coastline, stretching from the eastern panhandle to the shores near Naples. Following litigation in the 1970s, the company gave up the right to drill in Lake Okeechobee without first obtaining permission from the governor and his cabinet.

Florida banned drilling in territorial waters in the 1990s, which prompted an ongoing dispute between the state and Coastal Petroleum. This agreement draws years of disagreement to a close.

Coastal had been looking for a much bigger settlement ($1 billion had been thrown around), but a recent string of legal defeats led to the much lower figure.

Boart Longyear Sold

Advent International, a global private equity firm, has announced an agreement to acquire Boart Longyear, one of the world's leading providers of drilling services and equipment, from Anglo American plc. The enterprise value of the transaction is said to be $545 million.

Established in 1936 in order to turn Anglo American's stockpile of low-grade natural diamonds into productive and saleable drilling products, the business has since grown to become a leading provider of drilling services, tools and equipment for the mining, construction, water and environmental industries worldwide. Boart employs some 6,700 people globally, operating from sites in 38 countries.

OK, So Here's the Poop

One of the bigger challenges confronting the coal-bed methane gas industry is what to do with all the brackish ground water that gets pumped out of the wells. A researcher in Wyoming is onto something that can turn the salty contaminant into a beneficial fertilizer - with the help of fish manure. The researcher is raising tilapia in water that is pumped out of coal-bed methane wells. The fish do their business in the water, which then is used to irrigate agricultural crops. The fish manure makes salt-friendly plants soak up even more salt, and if the water is not used by plants, it is sent down into the ground, where it cannot harm the topsoil with its salt content. The proposition seems to be working in theory and small-scale practice, but one hurdle is scale. You need about 1,000 pounds of fish to procure enough manure to irrigate one acre of land with the brackish methane wastewater.

The long-running feud between Arkansas and Oklahoma over poultry farm pollution has reached the cloak-and-dagger stage. Oklahoma is upset because the chicken-manure fertilizer that is used so prevalently in Arkansas gets into rivers that the states have to share. So the state had operatives sneak across the state line and install water-quality monitors in Arkansas to build a case for a lawsuit. Arkansas officials were none too happy upon discovering the subterfuge - especially after initial denials from Oklahoma representatives. They will, however, allow the monitors to stay as long as Oklahoma shares the data collected.

We've Got Fan Mail

Your cover for the April issue was fantastic! I'm a real bookworm and love old books, so I think your idea for the cover was really neat and quite eye-catching.

You've done so much over the years to spruce up National Driller - inside and out - and your effort shows. Well done!

Hope you are doing well.

Very best regards,
Heidi Burhans

I received your publication, National Driller, a few days ago. It's a great read. I'm in the oil and gas business and I have a friend in southern Michigan who performs drilling for water wells, pier holes, etc. - I think he would be greatly interested in this publication. Please send a copy of National Driller to Larry Pettinger in Byron, Mich.

Many thanks,

Leonard Middleton
Pearl Petroleum Inc.