NEW PLYMOUTH, Idaho -- Governor Butch Otter and folks from the energy industry went out to Payette County Thursday to look at a growing field in Idaho energy: Natural gas. New Plymouth has the first commercial natural gas well in the state.

The well, owned by Houston-based Alta Mesa, provides gas for the town of New Plymouth, with natural gas from the ground beneath the town.

People in Idaho have long been using natural gas, and scientists have long thought there were natural gas reserves in the state.

"Geologists for over 100 years have recognized that Idaho has the potential of commercial gas production," said Hal Chappelle, President and CEO of Alta Mesa.

Chappelle said 160-180 wells have been drilled in the last 100 years in Idaho, but none of those ended up being commercial wells. However, using their advanced technology, Alta Mesa thinks there are more sites in the area where they could drill a commercial natural gas well.

"When you see the numbers that they talk about that may be available here, that is a tremendous opportunity for us," said Otter, who came out to New Plymouth to look at the first well and the treatment facility.

More wells could provide a greater benefit to the local economy.

"That means it makes sense for us, and perhaps others to drill wells and to produce that natural gas, and create that much more economic activity," said Chappelle. "We use as many people as we can from the local area."

Alta Mesa has five more well sites picked out.

"I think the confidence that the company, the confidence that we tried to build in people, that we were going to do the right thing at the right time for the right reasons, I think is what gave them the comfort of saying, 'Ok let's go ahead, and let's see what happens here,'" said Otter.

Alta Mesa hopes to finish work on this treatment plant, and have the pipeline put in by early to mid November of this year. At that point, the new treatment plant will be responsible for handling all the natural gas from the five wells they have in the area.

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