Thought Leader: Matt Owens’ company is making noise with quiet-tech innovations

Cathy Proctor
Denver Business Journal
January 11, 2018

“It’s fun to figure out how to do something."

Matt Owens — president and co-founder of Denver’s Extraction Oil & Gas Inc. — doesn’t like to watch from the sidelines.

His company is becoming known in energy circles as being at the forefront of the industry, whether the focus is technology — such as cutting noise by raising sound walls and using electric-powered drilling rigs — or strategy — like spending hundreds of hours working with Broomfield’s citizen committee reviewing drilling plans.

Owens has a track record of being involved. As second baseman for the ThunderRidge High School Grizzlies in Highlands Ranch — the 2004 5A state baseball champs — Owens knew players who got scholarships to big colleges but didn’t see much playing time in their freshman year.

“I wanted to play right away,” Owens said.

So he took a scholarship offer from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, where the coach promised to let him play right away.

After graduating from Mines with a petroleum engineering degree, Owens turned to his neighbor, Gasco Energy’s CEO and President Marc Erickson, who hired him.

The small oil and gas company gave its new hire the opportunity to quickly learn about different aspects of the industry — from drilling wells to fracking them and making them produce at high levels.

Then by 2010, a new drilling technology was starting to emerge. Instead of drilling through a formation vertically, companies were starting to turn the drill bit 90 degrees and drill horizontally through layers of rock.

Owens wanted in, and took a job at Denver’s PDC Energy Inc., a larger company that was testing its ability to drill the new, more complex horizontal wells.

“They were good wells, but no one knew exactly why there were good,” Owens said.

But Owens had an idea. Most of the wells he was working on in the Windsor area had horizontal segments that ran north-south. What would happen if they were drilled on an east-west axis?

“I thought that would make them better,” Owens said.

He told Erickson about his idea, and the two co-founded Extraction using financing that came via Erickson’s connections in the private equity world. They tested Owens’ idea.

The new wells “were awesome, three times better than the others,” Owens said.

Since then, Extraction has tested and implemented the use of sound walls to contain the noise that accompanies drilling rigs and hydraulic fracturing crews. The company figured out how to measure the amount of oil in a storage tank from the ground, meaning workers no longer had to climb a ladder and open a hatch, risking fumes rushing out of the tank.

The company uses pipelines to transport water and oil, reducing truck traffic, dust and noise in neighborhoods.

And Owens says Extraction was the first to run a nearly silent rig using electricity from nearby power lines.

It also was the first to deploy the new fleet of hydraulic fracturing equipment from Liberty Oilfield Services, the Denver company that spent two years working on its “Quiet Fleet” technology.

Extraction’s willingness to try new things also extends to the months it spent talking with Broomfield’s citizens and leaders about how it will drill 84 new horizontal wells in that community in the next few years.

“We want to work with the towns. We live here and work here,” Owens said.

Besides, he said with a grin, “It’s fun to figure out how to do something, and say we did it because we were asked to do it and able to do it.”