Colorado’s Niobrara shale is dominated by a few large oil and gas companies, but 28-year-old Matt Owens had an idea of how to navigate around the big boys.
Owens took the idea to his old Highlands Ranch neighbor Mark Erickson, and Denver-based Extraction Oil & Gas LLC was born.
“It started out at the beginning with a very modest strategy,” said Erickson, 54, the company’s CEO. “The idea was a cleanup, ground-floor strategy of leasing what hadn’t been taken by anyone else.”
The plan was backed by New York-based Yorktown Partners, a venture capital firm focused on the energy sector. And the lease acreage kept growing.
“Now we have one of the top six leasing positions and a potential 10-year drilling program,” Erickson said.
Extraction’s strategy, however, has taken it into more residential areas in Greeley, Berthoud and Windsor, where homeowners have voiced concerns about the risks of drilling.
“Extraction has been very open,” said Trisha Golding, whose daughter is a second-grader at Frontier Academy in Greeley — adjacent to one of the company’s drill sites. “But there are some places that companies just shouldn’t drill.”
The site initially was developed by Greeley-based Mineral Resources, and Extraction purchased a majority working interest in September. There are ways to accommodate drilling and limit its impacts, said Owens, Extraction’s president.