CHEYENNE — On a recent afternoon, Alex Bowler sat in a coffee shop here and held up a copy of the local newspaper. On display were two full pages of legal announcements notifying the public of companies’ plans to drill oil wells in the area.
“No one reads this type of thing except idiots like me,” said Bowler, who heads a local landowners group. “But what’s going to happen is it’s going to show up and people are going to panic.”
Laramie County has long been talked about as the site of the next big oil boom. At the beginning of the decade, companies like Noble Energy, Rex Energy and SM Energy flooded the region in hopes of scoring big in the Niobrara shale formation.
Production did grow. Between 2008 and 2013, Laramie County’s oil output increased by 1 million barrels, from 474,063 barrels to 1.4 million barrels, according to the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
But a full-scale boom never materialized.
“It’s just slow going down there,” a somewhat glum Tom Doll, then Wyoming oil and gas supervisor, told the Star-Tribune in 2011.
Today, Noble, Rex and SM Energy have disappeared from the golden prairie around Cheyenne, but the long-rumored increase in production appears poised for takeoff.
Telltale signs of a boom are apparent. Two new hotels recently opened in Cheyenne, and a third is under construction. Apartment vacancies are at their lowest levels in almost 20 years.
Those developments aren’t solely related to increasing oil development. Microsoft and the gun-maker Magpul are among the firms to recently move into Wyoming’s capital city.
Still, state statistics confirm that energy production here is on the rise. In May, a record 132 drilling applications in Laramie County were filed with the state. The next highest total was 104 applications, submitted the month before.