FARMINGTON — Mancos Shale development once again took center stage during the final day of the Four Corners Oil and Gas Conference at McGee Park.

Ken McQueen, WPX Energy's San Juan Basin director, spoke Thursday morning about the company's experiences with drilling horizontal wells in the Gallup Sandstone area in the Mancos Shale formation. More than 220 people attended the presentation.

Most of the company's wells are located on U.S. Bureau of Land Management and state of New Mexico land near the Lybrook area, which is about 100 miles southeast of Farmington.

McQueen's presentation included slides about the areas where the wells have been drilled, pipelines that are projected to be built and other aspects of drilling, producing and moving oil and gas from the Four Corners area.

Ken McQueen, WPX Energy’s San Juan Basin director, is introduced on Thursday before his seminar on Mancos Shale horizontal wells in the San Juan
Ken McQueen, WPX Energy's San Juan Basin director, is introduced on Thursday before his seminar on Mancos Shale horizontal wells in the San Juan Basin at the Four Corners Oil and Gas Conference at McGee Park in Farmington. (Jon Austria / The Daily Times)

In February, WPX, which is based in Tulsa, Okla., announced it plans to invest about $160 million in the San Juan Basin for oil exploration and production.

"It looks like it's going to be a play of significance," McQueen said after his presentation of the Gallup Sandstone area.

This year, the company increased the number of people employed in the area from 57 to 63.

Last year, WPX drilled 15 wells, and it plans to drill 29 wells this year, company officials said earlier this year.

McQueen said once wells start producing oil, companies have to think about how they are going to move their product.

He showed a slide of existing pipelines and explained the options his company has to transport oil out of the area.

McQueen said because there is limited space for oil pipelines, WPX uses trucks to move oil from the San Juan Basin to Gallup or Thoreau to the railroad. Occasionally, he said, the company trucks the oil to refineries as far away as Artesia in southeastern New Mexico.

San Juan College's Dean of the School of Energy delivered another presentation on Thursday.

Randy Pacheco talked about the new 65,000-square-foot School of Energy building, which is expected to be completed in May 2015.

The two-story building will house labs for specific programs, such as natural gas compression, oil and gas production, and industrial process operations.

As part of the conference, a trade show was set up. After the presentations concluded, dozens of people walked through the convention center and the coliseum to visit the vendors.

The vendors dealt in everything from gloves to a fully set-up oil rig. But one company had a unique business objective — acquire the right-of-ways for projects on allottee and Navajo Nation lands.

"It's going good. We got a lot of contacts," said Juan Betoni, owner of Bit'aa'nii Land Consulting, about the conference.

Betoni, who speaks Navajo and English, said companies seek his services when they need approval from allottees or the Navajo Nation to install pipelines, waterlines and transmission lines.

But he said most of the work he receives concerns allottee permissions.

Allotted land is owned by the Navajo Nation. The land's heirs, or allottees, have rights similar to those of private land owners. But for development to happen or right-of-ways to be granted, the entire group of heirs must approve the project,

"We go all over the country," Betoni said, noting one parcel of land can have up to 3,000 different heirs.

He added: "One project can take a year, two or even three years to complete."

Erny Zah is The Daily Times business editor. He can be reached at 505-564-4638.and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.