Learning the ins, outs of oil and gas

Learning the ins, outs of oil and gas

San Juan County residents who are curious about how oil and natural gas are produced can attend a class at San Juan College’s School of Energy.

The class, “The Oil and Gas Industry: An Introduction Story,” will explain the process in easily understood language.

“I start with geology and end up with capping the well,” said course instructor Jack Ensor, ConocoPhillips procurement coordinator for the San Juan Business Unit.

Ensor brings to the classroom his expertise gained from working in the United Arab Emirates, Michigan, Louisiana, west and south Texas, Egypt, Madagascar, Singapore, Kenya and Oman.

“I loved it,” he said.

Students learn on day one of their four-week course that no dinosaurs are involved in the production of oil and natural gas. Rather, the energy results from plant life. In the case of San Juan County, consider that this area once included prime, beachfront property. The rest was an ocean floor.

Common areas of confusion Ensor has noticed among his students include their perception that deep under the surface of the Earth is a large pool of oil. He explained the product is contained within the pores of rock.

Looking beneath the ground by using seismic equipment also confuses his students, Ensor said. The technique enables geologists to pinpoint oil-bearing rock by using seismic waves and noting how different layers of rock react to them.

“I talk about how oil and gas is made, how to find it and how to retrieve it from wells ranging from 1,500 to 6,000 feet deep,” Ensor said.

The deepest well he worked on bored 24,000 feet into the earth’s surface, he said.

Many of Ensor’s students work for oil and gas producing companies, but are new to the business and want to understand more about it. Others simply haven’t had the chance to learn about the Twentieth Century-era industry before. He’s taught about 82 people so far and plans to “break 100″ this spring.

“I try to bring as much hands-on’ teaching into the classroom as I can, and I’m trying to get more videos,” Ensor said.

The college’s School of Energy has equipment set up, but it’s been too muddy recently to access it, he added.

“I tried to get out on a drilling rig, but no one wants to take responsibility for the liability,” he said.

As the class becomes more well known, Ensor hopes to involve two more teachers and ramp up to having three classes simultaneously in progress.

The class used to be taught through the Business and Industry training program at San Juan College ”” a revenue-based program. When it moved from that location to the college’s School of Energy on South Hutton, the price dropped slightly more than half.

“That’s a good thing,” said Quality Center for Business Director Jasper Welch, giving a nod to the possibility that more people might sign up for the course.

“It’s a good case for non-credit offerings,” he said.

The next class is taught from 1 to 5 p.m. Fridays from March 28 to April 18 at the School of Energy, 800 S. Hutton in Farmington.


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