Seventy million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, Moffat County had beaches bordering a sea that covered much of North America.
The organic matter along those beaches died and became the natural gas that energy developers hope to produce in Moffat County today.
At a members-only Moffat County Economic Development Partnership meeting Wednesday evening, representatives of Western Gas Resources, Julander Energy and Entrega Gas Pipeline addressed how they intend to extract and transport natural gas in Moffat County.
Although the majority of natural gas development in the Rocky Mountains has taken place to the north and south of Moffat County, the energy representatives promised that development here would increase, with a focus in the Sand Wash Basin.
"People are recognizing this is where the future of natural gas lies right now," said Stephen Flaherty of Western Gas Resources.
But Moffat County is a distant seventh in the ranks of Colorado natural gas development counties. Sixty-three drill permits were approved here during the past year. The next county had 138 drill permits approved during the same time frame.
But wells aren't drilled for every well permit approved. On average during a year, one drill rig a week is operating in Moffat County, Flaherty said.
Yet Julander Energy's president, Fred Julander, thinks the Sand Wash Basin could become a high production field for the next 100 years. His company has been active in the Sand Wash Basin for the past 15 years.
Julander estimated that Sand Wash would be in an exploratory phase for the next 20 to 30 years and a production phase for the following 60 to 70 years.
The construction of a 36-inch pipeline by Entrega could provide infrastructure to transport the natural gas that could potentially lie in Sand Wash, Julander said.
In the next two years, Julander estimated his company or his company's partners would drill eight "wildcats," or exploratory wells, in Moffat County.
Julander Energy has been active in Sand Wash for the past 15 years. The company has also been active in Carbon County in Wyoming.
But despite Julander Energy's focused activity in Moffat County, the company and its five employees have remained based in Denver.
Julander said he has considered relocating to Moffat County, and his company may someday open an office here.
Many of the questions after the presentations focused on the jobs that could be created through energy development.
The Entrega Pipeline will be built in four sections, with 350 to 400 people working on each section, Entrega representative Denny Needham said. Construction will last for three to five months, and about 20 percent of the workers will be from Colorado or Wyoming.
Once the pipeline is completed, 25 to 30 people will be needed to operate it.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.