Colorado_Feature_03-2014

Did Colorado just set a record for oil production?

Add Colorado to the list of states – including Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania – that are experiencing firsthand the new domestic energy abundance brought on by tapping into America’s shale oil and natural gas regions.

Data from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission suggest that the Mile High State produced more than 61 million barrels of oil last year, nearly matching the all-time high of roughly 62 million barrels set in 1956.

Colorado_03-2014Colorado’s oil production growth is nothing short of astonishing.  Output has doubled since 2009, with 20-25 percent increases in each of the last four years. Much of this new production comes from the Niobrara Shale region in the flat, eastern portion of the state.

I’ll note that the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists puts the 1956 record at only 58.6 million barrels, which means that Colorado oil and gas producers shot past that figure in 2013 with room to spare.

Regardless of which is correct, the real significance is what this new abundance means for Colorado and for the country as a whole.

Last October new production from the Niobrara, along with the Bakken, Eagle Ford, and Permian regions, helped the U.S. produce more oil domestically than we imported. That hadn’t happened since 1993. This new output is strengthening America’s energy security and providing a boost to the otherwise sluggish economy.

In Colorado, the beneficial effect of oil and gas production is profound, as a recent study measuring the industry’s impact makes clear.

The study from the business school at UC-Boulder notes that in 2012 the industry directly employed over 50,000 people. As the state oil and gas commission points out, only the cities of Denver, Colorado Springs, and Boulder have more jobs than the petroleum industry.

Those are well paying jobs, too. The industry paid $3.8 billion in labor income in 2012. The average wage of over $74,800 is 49 percent higher than the state average for all industries.

All told, the oil and gas industry generated $29.6 billion for the state’s economy in 2012. It produced almost $1.6 billion in public revenue, with almost $500 million going to education.


  • Worth a deeper look...