More than 200 people visit with Shell officials at open house Thursday
May 25, 2012
“It’s about educating people on what you’re doing, being honest and making good local contacts. I’ve got seven new contacts here and one of Shell’s hallmarks in hosting these events is to mature these contacts into local vendors that we’ll use.”
— Matt Holman, project lead for Shell’s Northwest Colorado operations
Matt Holman, project lead for Shell's Northwest Colorado operations, measures the success of a public meeting in an interesting way.
"It's about educating people on what you’re doing, being honest and making good local contacts," Holman said. "I've got seven new contacts here and one of Shell's hallmarks in hosting these events is to mature these contacts into local vendors that we'll use.
"We want to be able to demonstrate to the community that we're using the people that already live right here. It's really difficult to do that if you don't have the contacts or the people in place to interface with the company."
More than 200 people attended Shell's open house Thursday at the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Colorado in Craig to learn more about the company, the company’s operations plan for Moffat County and Shell's policies regarding drilling, safety, environmental protections and community involvement.
Fifteen Shell employees were spread throughout the Boys & Girls Club gymnasium to answer questions from the public.
Among them was Brenda Clark, Shell's environmental specialist for new exploration projects.
Clark provides environmental support in Shell's play for Niobrara Shale oil, which includes monitoring air and water quality, and drafting policies for spill prevention.
The biggest thing local residents wanted to know was Shell's strategy to protect the region's ground water supply from contamination, Clark said.
"We go out ahead of time and take samples to ensure our operations don't have an effect on groundwater," Clark said. "We'll return to our sample sites at different stages of the project to monitor certain ground water levels."
Another popular station was manned by Shell Drilling Engineer Keith Smelker.
Smelker arrived at the open house Thursday expecting to answer a lot of questions about fracking, but he said the majority of the concerns he fielded from local residents were in reference to road safety and obeying speed limits on Colorado Highway 317 near Hamilton.
Smelker's specialty is in planning and executing the drilling of Shell's exploratory wells.
“In other words, I'm the guy that makes the holes in the ground," Smelker said. "It's my job to not only ensure we comply with federal and state regulations, but to also meet Shell's safety standards."
Although Holman told the audience Shell might begin fracking in 2013, Smelker said the company has no plans to do so this year.
Additionally, all nine wells in Shell's plan for Moffat County this year will be drilled horizontally, Smelker said.
The depths range from 2,700- to 6,000-feet deep with lateral lengths up to 3,500 feet.
Holman said he was pleased with the number of people who attended the open house from outside the city.
Sparky Pappas was a Craig resident for more than 25 years, and she traveled from her current home in Meeker to learn more about the potential boom in her former hometown.
"I'm very encouraged by what Shell is doing and I hope it provides a good opportunity for the community," Pappas said. "I think they're very organized, they know how to ramrod whatever they want to do and they're big enough to do it."
Erica Stewart owns Creekside Guest Cabin in Hamilton, not far from where Shell has focused the majority of its operations.
Stewart attended the meeting because she is moving and has been in contact with Shell representatives about renting her log homes to the company's incoming employees.
"I think (all of the drilling activity) will be good for Moffat County because of all of the business it will bring in," Stewart said. "Everyone I have met has been really nice and they seem to be really interested in working with the businesses in the area. I think they're going to be a great group to work with."
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