Weld County’s oil journey doesn’t stop with crude | MyWindsorNow.com
Danny Bishop
For The Tribune

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Weld County’s oil journey doesn’t stop with crude

Crude oil is not the only petroleum product that comes out of the ground. When drilling, producers also extract natural gas and natural gas liquids.

Colorado is the sixth-highest energy producer in the country, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration. In 2015, 1,988 trillion British Thermal Units of natural gas came out of Colorado — thanks, in part, to the Niobrara Shale formation in the Denver-Julesburg Basin, the center of which sits beneath Greeley. The Wattenberg Field is known as one of the largest natural gas deposits in the country.

According to a January 2017 government report, Weld County is the top producer of natural gas in Colorado.

Blane Thingelstad, a petroleum engineer with Extraction Oil and Gas, which drills in Greeley, said the Wattenberg Field produces around 3 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year. He said more natural gas comes out of the field than the Front Range could ever use. Excess natural gas is put underground for storage and tapped into during winter months for heating homes by companies such as Atmos Energy and Xcel Energy.

However, the abundance of natural gas available today puts stress on infrastructure never designed to take in such volume, which presents roadblocks in the production process.

According to ARB Midstream CEO Adam Bedard, much of the natural gas in the country is sent to the Gulf Coast.

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"In the DJ, infrastructure can't keep up with supply," Bedard said. "As shale ramps up quickly, it puts a lot of stress on infrastructure."

Colorado Petroleum Council Associate Director Mike Paules said a gas line links a drill site to a natural gas processing plant. From there, the gas is separated from natural gas liquids and then either refined for consumer use or stored underground.

He said producers look to recover various natural gas liquids from the gas because it can command its own price aside from the natural gas.

Due to natural gas liquids availability, the Gulf Coast has become the center of a booming plastics market. For example, Thingelstad said ethane, isolated from natural gas, is made into polyethylene pellets — a polymer used to make plastic. An influx in polyethylene, deriving from natural gas, has virtually created a new market for plastics because of its availability.

"Refineries on the Gulf Coast are spending enormous dollars to upgrade their systems, because this is a niche market affecting the globe," Thingelstad said. "The phones in our pockets are made of plastic, and that came from a polyethylene pellet."

At the end of the process, consumers enjoy products they might not realize came from the liquids that come from the ground.

"Hydrocarbons touch every part of our lives," Thingelstad said. "From cars to milk jugs, our modern standard of living depends on oil and gas."

Long and winding road

Weld’s oil travels a great distance after being pumped out of the ground. Read about its travels here.

Products made from petroleum

One 42-gallon barrel of oil creates roughly 20 gallons of gasoline. The rest (over half) is used to make things like:

Solvents, diesel fuel, motor oil, bearing grease, ink, floor wax, ballpoint pens, football cleats, upholstery, sweaters, boats, insecticides, bicycle tires, sport car bodies, nail polish, fishing lures, dresses, tires, golf bags, perfumes, dishwasher parts, tool boxes, shoe polish, motorcycle helmet, caulking, petroleum jelly, transparent tape, CD player, faucet washers, antiseptics, clothesline, curtains, food preservatives, basketballs, soap, vitamin capsules, antihistamines, purses, shoes, dashboards, cortisone, deodorant, footballs, putty, dyes, panty hose, refrigerant, percolators, life jackets, rubbing alcohol, linings, skis, TV cabinets, shag rugs, electrician’s tape, took racks, car battery cases, epoxy, paint, mops, slacks, insect repellant, oil filters, umbrellas, yarn, fertilizers, hair coloring, roofing, toilet seats, fishing rods, lipstick, denture adhesive, linoleum, ice cube trays, synthetic rubber, speakers, plastic wood, electric blankets, glycerin, tennis rackets, rubber cement, fishing boots, dice, nylon rope, candles, trash bags, house paint, water pipes, hand lotion, roller skates, surf boards, shampoo, wheels, paint rollers, shower curtains, guitar strings, luggage, aspirin, safety glasses, antifreeze, football helmets, ice chests, footballs, combs, CDs and DVDs, paint brushes, detergents, vaporizers, balloons, sun glasses, tents, heart valves, crayons, parachutes, telephones, enamel, pillows, dishes, cameras, anesthetics, artificial turf, artificial limbs, bandages, dentures, model cars, folding doors, hair curlers, cold cream, movie film, soft contact lenses, drinking cups, fan belts, car enamel, shaving cream, ammonia, refrigerators, golf balls, toothpaste, gasoline.

Source: Ranken Energy, Edmond, Okla.