Shell shares oil exploration plans at meeting in Hayden | SteamboatToday.com

Shell shares oil exploration plans at meeting in Hayden

Company plans to drill 11 wells in Routt, Moffat counties this year

— On Tuesday night, Shell Oil's Matt Holman shared in Hayden his company's exploration plans for Northwest Colorado.

With the help of hors d'oeuvres, 11 employees and a large map of Routt and Moffat counties, Holman, Shell's exploration project manager for the area, spent much of the evening telling more than 150 people at the Haven Community Center exactly how, when and where his company plans to drill this year for the sweet crude oil nestled in the Niobrara Shale formation.

"It's really all about being transparent," Holman said about his company's open house while throngs of people spoke with his exploration team that included transportation, logistics, environmental and regulatory managers and landmen. "If I have business in front of the community, like at a county commissioners' meeting, that's a bad time to do community engagement like this because at that point, everything is formal. There's a process, and we're all bound to do what we've come there to do. But if I can talk to the landowners beforehand, and I can tell the commissioners that they support me, I become a good neighbor. That's really what I want to be."

After a quick kickoff speech, Holman unfolded a large map of Northwest Colorado onto a table, an action that prompted clusters of people to instantly come over and see where the oil company intends to drill 11 exploratory wells this year.

"I'm just curious to see what their plans are," Hayden resident Frank Roitsch said after he peered at the map.

Also studying the map was Steamboat Springs-based oil and gas attorney Jenna Keller, who represents landowners as they negotiate oil and gas leases for their properties.

"The relationship with an operator is always important, and I came here to start learning what kind of operator (Shell) would be," Keller said. "I want to find out whether they would be positive and easy to work with or whether they're going to bring the hammer down. We won't know until they start pulling onto people's property, but I think this is a positive step for them."

Holman said the well sites will determine whether the company will invest in a more extensive project to extract oil from the Niobrara Shale. He said three of the proposed wells are planned for Routt and eight are planned for Moffat.

He said the well sites he plans to pursue in Routt County include a plot of land about five miles south of Hayden off Routt County Road 37, a site southeast of Milner off C.R. 33B and a site on C.R. 65 near Routt's border with Moffat County. He added that none of the wells planned for this year are expected to use fracking but that the drilling method could be utilized next year if the play continues.

Seeking more information

Tuesday's open house was attended by Hayden Town Council members, school board members, county officials and many others who hoped to learn more about Shell's plans.

Karin Utterback-Normann and her husband, Ron, live on a ranch west of Milner that is no stranger to oil and gas exploration. The couple said they came out to the community center to learn as much as they could about how Shell plans to extract oil.

"We just need to keep up on what is the latest technology and how they plan to use it," Karin Utterback-Normann said, adding that there are several capped oil wells on her ranch dating back to an oil play that occurred decades ago. The couple said that their property has the potential to host oil development in the future and that they would welcome it.

"I think tonight's event was very beneficial," she said.

As he stood outside on a patio, Holman, who is headquartered in Houston, gestured toward the loud community room filled with people and said he has enjoyed getting to know the people who live in the communities he plans to drill in.

"They are stubborn. They are practical. They are good, honest folks," he said. "I feel a lot of calluses around here when I shake their hands."

He added that community members so far have given Shell "a pretty good scrub."

"They are asking some really good questions," he said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com