Support for oil development in the San Juan Basin remains strong, evidenced by the record turnout at a recent energy expo for Navajo allottees and the wider community.
More than 350 people attended “Energy Day” on June 15 at the Nageezi Chapter House, which was hosted by WPX and other local operators.
WPX’s Andrea Felix organized the event, anticipating the potential for 200-300 people. At the end of the day, the turnout was 20 percent higher.
“We’re very pleased with the response,” Andrea said. “Overall, we showcased nearly 20 booths where people could learn about everything from science to safety.”
The goal of the event was to provide a forum where people could visit first-hand with professionals who plan, design and drill oil wells. Lots of conversations even took place over hamburgers and hot dogs as people sat down together to eat lunch and talk shop.
Regulatory agencies and public officials were involved, too, and available to answer questions, including the Department of the Interior, the Federal Indian Minerals Office and the New Mexico State Land Office.
The most popular booth at the expo was staffed by Sr. Geoscientist Renee Wild (shown below) and Geophysicist Jennifer Kennedy. Everyone seemed to be curious about the rocks at their table.
More precisely, those rocks are a silty sandstone from an actual WPX oil well in the West Lybrook unit. These rocks are where the oil is trapped. Fracturing the rock is what helps release the oil.
WPX obtained this “core sample” for further study and analysis from a vertical wellbore that reached some 4,500 feet (almost a mile) deep. And yes, this is a sample of the real rock that contains oil. You can even smell traces of oil from it.
Kelly Swan, who leads the company’s communication and outreach programs, was there to learn himself, listening to story after story from attendees about their love for land and family.
“It’s interesting,” he said, “regardless of whether a person opposes or supports what we do, it essentially comes down to the same factors.
“Everyone we met with wants to protect their cultural lineage and advance their family heritage. For those who partner with us, they’re simply doing what their father or grandfather did years ago.
“Somewhere in their family history, someone signed a lease approving the installation of a pipeline or the drilling of an oil or gas well,” he added.
“Doing the same thing today in 2017, years later, is a way for them of preserving that legacy or providing for their family, just like their relatives before them.
“For us as a company, we want to understand where people are coming from and what they base their decisions on, pro or con. It’s our responsibility to continually learn everything we can from our partners. It’s one of the ways we can show respect,” Kelly said.