Anticipating continued robust growth in the U.S. oil and natural gas industry, Colorado Mesa University (CMU) in the resource-rich Western Slope region is offering a unique four-year degree program focused on landmen.

Currently, 70% of the students completing the CMU program are working in degree-related positions in the energy industry, according to program director Steve Soychak. The program was recently accredited by the American Association of Professional Landmen (AAPL).

Laramie Energy CEO Robert Boswell said he anticipates the workforce and companies “will be better off as a result.”

There are a dozen AAPL-accredited landman undergraduate programs in the United States and Canada, and CMU's is the second one in Colorado. The program is of particular interest to Piceance Basin producers, according to Boswell.

The 120-credit program offers an undergraduate degree with a concentration on disciplines required in the energy management/landman sphere. A quarter of the credit hours emphasize energy fundamentals, development, marketing, transportation, real property oil/gas  mineral law, petroleum engineering and land practices.

Soychak said 60-65% of CMU program graduates work in the land field for industry or government, with the rest working in other segments of the energy industry in both the private and public sectors. "We have graduates as far north as Montana to as far south as Austin, TX," he said. "The majority find work in the Rockies."

The West Slope chapter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (WSCOGA) said the CMU program is a response to indicators such as the U.S. Geological Survey's estimate of more than 66 Tcf of reserves in the Niobrara/Mancos Shale play. "There will be an increasing need for energy development on the Western Slope as gas prices continue to recover," said Soychak.

"Thousands of wells also will have potential to be developed in the shallower Williams Fork/Mesaverde formations, where trillions more cubic feet of gas reserves still remain," Soychak told NGI, noting that more professionals with landman skills will be needed in the region.

In Canada and the United States, AAPL counts more than 18,000 working and retired landmen as members. Soychak estimates that up to 1,000 work in the greater Denver area and close to 100 along the Western Slope, including land examiners for federal agencies.

"As commodity prices and technology continue to improve, we should see a greater demand for more landmen to develop both shale oil and gas plays," said Soychak, citing U.S. Energy Information Administration projections for 43% growth in U.S. natural gas and 15% in oil by 2040. "Although there may be some oil demand destruction due to electric vehicles, oil will continue to be in demand due to heavy truck transportation and petrochemical needs.”

Beyond the Piceance Basin's tight gas sands and shales there are "huge resources" in the Mahogany oil shale, uranium deposits and coal reserves, Soychak said. "When you combine all of this resource potential, western Colorado has some of the largest energy resource potential in the world."