Denver-based Whiting Petroleum sold its Texas holdings for $816 million in July and said it would use the cash to “accelerate” development of Colorado’s Niobrara shale.
“The one thing we don’t have to worry about in the Niobrara is oil in place,” James Brown, the company CEO, told analysts in November. “There is a tremendous amount of oil in place.”
Whiting is just one of the companies pumping money into Colorado to tap the equivalent of at least 3.8 billion barrels of oil beneath the plains.
The discovery of an easy-to-drill and oil-rich stratum fueled nearly $4 billion in spending in 2013 by the top operators — who have plans to spend and drill even more in 2014.
More than $1 billion is being spent on plants, pipelines and rail terminals to process and ship the oil.
“We are still finding out how big this is going to be,” said Dan Kelly, vice president at Noble Energy, the basin’s largest operator. ” The opportunity is there.”
The rush of investment and activity is reverberating across the Front Range. In oil country, it is buoying the economy.
“These huge investments are benefiting everyone: fire districts, school districts, homeowners,” Upstate Colorado Economic Development president Eric Berglund said.