Denver Cleans Up in Ranking of “World’s Best Oil and Gas Cities”

Call this bit of news a “blast from the past” that will make people in Colorado’s oil and gas industry smile—and could leave environmentalists and members of the clean energy industry shaking their heads.

Rigzone, an online industry news and analysis publication based in Houston, has named Denver the best oil and gas city in the U.S. and third-best oil and gas city in the world. The only cities to beat out Denver were second-ranked Calgary, Alberta, which is the center of Canada’s energy industry, and top-ranked Dubai, the booming United Arab Emirates city that is the hub for the oil and gas industry in the Persian Gulf.

While the rankings aren’t an authoritative measure—Rigzone said about 8,000 readers participated in its survey—it is another indicator that the “old school” energy industry is booming while new industries such as wind and solar are struggling.

Rigzone’s introduction to the rankings said it looked at two factors—the economic potential of the area and its attractiveness as a place to work.

The Denver area did well on both measures. Companies including Halliburton, Noble Energy, Anadarko Petroleum, and EnCana have significant operations in the area. Estimates created by industry groups estimate oil and gas accounted for 77,600 jobs in the state in 2012, along with value-added economic activity of more than $11 billion. They project that by 2035, those numbers could swell to 175,363 jobs and $26 billion in impact.

The report also cited the Denver area’s quality of life, opportunities for outdoor recreation, and good weather.

What’s good for employees in the oil and gas world is to the consternation of environmentalists and some local communities.

New improvements to technologies such as directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are contributing to the boom. Together they have opened up new areas for exploration, but those fields often are near communities on the Front Range, where most Coloradans live. For the past few years, opponents have been organizing against the industry.

It is an interesting contrast to just a few years ago, when renewable energy was predicted to become the driving force behind Colorado’s “New Energy Economy.” Wind turbine manufacturers such as Vestas and solar panel makers including Abound Solar were predicted to make Colorado a leader in cleantech, but in the past few years Vestas has struggled with repeated layoffs and Abound has gone bankrupt.

Renewable energy analysts still believe in Colorado’s potential, with an Ernst & Young report ranking Colorado the third most attractive state for the renewables industries.

Meanwhile, the oil and gas sector looks to be reclaiming its historic place as one of Colorado’s economic drivers, for better and for worse.

The last big boom in the 1970s and 1980s helped build Denver’s skyline and national profile. The city was the setting for the prime-time soap opera Dynasty, which was about a family that earned considerable wealth in oil. But the boom didn’t last, with towns in the gas patch famously becoming ghost towns once drilling companies pulled out.

In the Rigzone rankings, Denver bested world-class cities like Singapore, Mumbai, and Rio de Janeiro. Denver was the only U.S. city to make the list, although Rigzone’s article suggests Houston might have been excluded from consideration.



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