Veterans bank on work in Rifle |

Veterans bank on work in Rifle

ASPEN – It’s not just newcomers to the industry that are rolling into Rifle. Mark Balderston, a 25-year veteran of the industry, toughed out some lean times so his family could stay in Colorado.Balderston spent 19 years in the industry moving from job to job but maintaining his base in Denver. “I figured the Rockies were the place to be,” said the graduate of the School of Mines in Golden.Six years ago he relocated his family to Craig, gambling that he could find steady enough work in southwest Wyoming and Colorado to avoid moving his family again.Balderston said he first started working in the Rifle area in 1994 when a former employer started exploring for gas in the area. His decision to root his family in Craig paid off. Now as a consultant for EnCana, he supervises a crew that pumps sand and water at high velocity into the wells to fracture the rock surrounding the drill holes so the natural gas is more easily extracted. That process is the key to tapping the prolific gas reserves in the Mamm Creek Field, so his position seems secure.Balderston is thankful his gamble on steady employment in Western Colorado paid off, for the sake of his kids, now ages 9 and 13.”I had to starve for a while, but I didn’t want to go to the Gulf Coast or overseas,” he said.Mike Richens, another industry veteran who said he has “done it all” in the gas and oil industry for 34 years, was willing to leave his longtime home in Durango for the promise of steady work in Rifle. He relocated with his wife 14 months ago. As a supervisor of crews that prepare wells for production, Richens said there could be enough work to last several years in the Mamm Creek Field.Richens, like Balderston, works as an independent consultant for EnCana – as do most of the upper managers in the field. It makes it easier for the company to adjust the size of the work force as conditions warrant.While Richens loves living in Colorado, he is experienced enough to know he might have to follow the boom elsewhere. And with his level of experience, he’s confident there will always be a job for him.”If this ends tomorrow I’ll be working somewhere else the next day,” Richens said.Vail, Colorado

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