By William C. Thomas
At least 300 Elbert County residents
assembled for a presentation and
panel discussion by experts on oil and
gas drilling and exploration at the
Exhibit Hall on the Elbert County
Fairgrounds in Kiowa on Tuesday
night, January 18, 2011; many in
response to overtures from oil and gas
exploration companies, which have
been contacting residents since late
fall about leasing.
"Elbert County is not a producing
county, but it will be," Neil Ray,
President of the National Association
of Royalty Owners, (NARO), told the
assembly, because of the Niobrara oil
shale formation, 50 miles wide in some
places, which goes as far east as
Goodland, KS; as far north as North
Dakota; and ends somewhere before
Highway 83 enters El Paso County,
where Focus on the Family is located.
Elbert County is on top of its
The mixture for fracking, (a method
whereby the shale is broken into little
cracks by water pressure and sand to
release the oil and gas), the video
assured, is "99.5% sand and water."
The video's narrator went on to say
they've been drilling this way for 60
years and have never had a problem.
Downplaying the video's claims, Ray
inferred that there had been
"problems," but his message was
chiefly to urge the assembled to join
NARO, which lobbies on behalf of lease
holders and influences legislation,
disseminates information, publishes a
newsletter and a step-by-step guide to
negotiating with energy companies. He
did not mention membership fees:
$105.00 will buy the basic package;
the deluxe package is $500.00,
according to his brochure.
Sponsored by the Elbert County
Department of Public Health, the
experts presented an hour of
information, then spent the next hour
Because of the advent of horizontal
drilling, Ray said, it was now possible
to drill for oil in shale formations and
the Niobrara was yielding treasure. The
video he showed, produced by the
Domestic Energy Producers Alliance,
explained how the well was drilled: so
many feet down, then turned 90
degrees to the right. The large pipes
inserted in the well would be lined with
three inches of concrete in the aquifer
and above the below it so the water
would be untouched. After the pipe was
inserted, the "fracking" would begin.
Dr. Jerry Koch, longtime Elbert County
resident, whose spouse, Paula, is also
a geologist, took the microphone to
explain that drilling could be beneficial
for Elbert County, citing examples from
the Oklahoma and Kansas oil strikes
with which he has been associated:
"There are some amazing schools and
other civic improvements" directly
related to oil and gas royalties and the
taxes they create.
Dr. Koch went through the steps
exploration companies would take:
trucks would "shoot seismic:" a
method whereby the ground would
vibrate and sonar pictures would be
taken of what is beneath the surface;
construction on rigs would begin; pipes
would be inserted; the concrete would
be put in place; fracking would begin.
"This is rich source rock," he
explained, "surrounded by brittle
limestone." The limestone fractures and
the oil oozes out, "cooked down there."
Dr. Koch did not explain how it was
cooked, short of mentioning that
fracking mixtures contained chemicals
that can be found "in every household."
Adamant that "water is precious,"
Koch explained that current methods
"preserve every drop."
Koch feels that Elbert County will soon
be awash with oil and gas explorers
because of the brittleness of the
limestone and the "sweet spots:"
reservoirs of oil within the formation
itself. "Companies are looking for
those," he pointed out, and it looks like
Elbert County has some. One in Weld
County has produced 60,000 barrels of
oil so far."
Koch assured the audience that the
fracking fluids "would not come straight
up" because of the cement casing
protecting the aquifer.
Dr. Koch was followed by experts from
the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation
Commission, who explained
environmental safeguards and their
roles in enforcing them, including a
study of water quality before and after
drilling. What it comes down to: If water
quality has deteriorated, the oil
company has to make it right, no
matter the cost.
Richard Miller, whose office handles
zoning and planning for the County,
outlined the need to develop specific
requirements for Elbert County on Oil
and Gas Exploration, specifically
regarding roads and land use.
Mentioning Weld County, which is
currently dealing with these very issues,
Miller said he'd been in contact with his
equal in that County and had wanted to
copy the example.
A question-answer period followed the
presentations. Mary Sue Liss of Elbert
County Public Health, the hostess of
the event, made certain that anyone
whose question had not been answered
would have the opportunity to address it
on the 3x5 index card on each of the
folding chairs in the Exhibit Hall.
Oil and Gas Exploration
Coming Soon To Elbert Cty?