Tracee Bentley (photo credit: Western Wire)

At an event hosted by Colorado business groups earlier this week, representatives of the oil and natural gas industry touted diversification programs, energy development in the state and efforts to improve the industry’s safety record.

“Colorado is leading the way with workforce diversification. It is no secret that the oil and gas industry is old, male and white,” Colorado Petroleum Council Executive Director Tracee Bentley said. “I was thrilled when [the American Petroleum Institute] said, you know what, if there’s any state that could help change this, it’s Colorado.”

The Denver event on Wednesday was co-hosted by the Asian Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by the Colorado Petroleum Council, a division of API.

“One of our top goals is to make sure that … our workforce in Colorado looks like Colorado,” Bentley said.

While diversity within the industry “isn’t something we can change overnight,” Bentley said, she hopes that the efforts in Colorado will “set the trend for our colleagues nationwide.”

“Another [initiative] is our outreach to women and to minorities,” Bentley continued.

API’s Ryan Ross said introducing young women to careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is part of the organization’s outreach program.

“We have Women Rocking the Rockies: taking young women from grades six to twelve and exposing them to women working in STEM industries – that’s medicine, oil and gas and all aspects of energy,” Ross said. “What we want to do is make sure that these students see people who look like them and know that they can do this and more importantly that this is fun.”

Bentley also provided an overview of energy development in Colorado.

“We rank very high in oil and gas production. We actually rank very high in all energy production. We are a perfect example of an-all-of-the-above state,” Bentley said. “But we rank 6th in oil and 7th in gas. We produce more gas, to put it in perspective, than Pakistan, Thailand, and Venezuela. Colorado produces more gas than entire countries.”

“Our workforce is a huge part of this economy, and we’re proud [of that],” Bentley said. “We’re going to continue to innovate and get better.”

Tyson Johnston (photo credit: Western Wire)

Safety is one of the areas pinpointed for continued improvement, said Tyson Johnston, director of land and business development at Bonanza Creek.

“We start every single meeting with safety. That’s a land meeting, an engineering meeting, a group meeting,” Johnston said. “Whatever that meeting is, we start with safety. Part of that is instilling that culture [of safety].”

The culture and expectation of safety is “one thing you’ll find is in almost every single company out there,” Johnston continued. “Safety is not something that they ignore. Safety is not something that they don’t care about. They care deeply about it.”

The idea that “oil and gas doesn’t care, or that oil and gas just wants to go about and cause havoc, it’s a myth,” Johnston said. “It’s another one of those stereotypes that need to be broken.”

Johnston also explained that regulations governing oil and natural gas development have increased significantly in recent years, with new rules ranging from green completions, to water monitoring, to water management. “The rulebook almost tripled in size,” he said.

“When [Colo.] Governor Hickenlooper steps up and says, on oil and gas, that we have some of the most stringent rules in the country, he’s not joking,” Johnston told the audience. “We really do.”