Really good at drilling dry holes: Bruce White, left, and Dale Butcher.

Conquest reigns in oil-well water woes 2012 Bravo! Entrepreneur - Greeley

Bruce White, the founder of Greeley-based Conquest Oil, began his career as a driller but has made a name for himself in the oil and gas industry as an innovative service provider.

White, who grew up in Ault, bought his first well in Weld County in 1984 with the financial help of family and friends. He eventually owned 30 producing wells in Colorado and Kansas but gradually sold them off to finance some of the growth of Conquest Water Services, the subsidiary he founded in 1993.

White and business partner Dale Butcher built seven facilities in Weld County that inject water that is produced as a byproduct from oil and gas drilling into the ground.

The plants are strategically placed around the county to minimize the distance that drillers have to haul the water in tanker trucks.

White’s business model is the opposite of that of oil drillers. He does engineering and geology studies to make sure he’s going to find a dry hole that he can fill with water, instead of an oil reservoir, when he drills.

“We’re really good at drilling dry holes,” he said. “Not everybody wants to claim that.”

White saw an important need. State, county and federal regulations prohibit oil drillers from simply dumping the water on the ground that comes out of wells with the oil and gas.

“All of the wells produce water and the water is regulated and has to be properly handled and reported and authorized,” he said.

White built the plants, which include water storage tanks, loading docks, pumps and recycling equipment, around dry injection holes he drilled.

“We inject the water 10,000 to 12,000 feet down, into a porous, sandy reservoir, a big ocean bottom,” he said.

Before Conquest Water Services came along, the water produced from Weld County’s wells was stored in evaporation pits. That’s before regulators came down on that, too.

“We were the first commercial water production facility in Weld County to inject (water into the ground),” White said.

Conquest eventually took in between 80 and 90 percent of the water produced by Weld County wells, he said.

The company also began recycling some of the water it took in at the plants using a filtering process that eliminates impurities down to 50 microns. The oil drillers take the recycled water back, and then inject it about 7,000 feet down where the oil lies in the wells after drilling is completed to clean the new wells and prepare them for production.

“They use service rigs that move on to the location after the drilling rigs,” White said.

White and Butcher sold Conquest Water Services to Denver-based High Sierra Energy in June for an undisclosed amount. White continues to direct the operations of the new High Sierra Water Services from his Greeley office.

The company is planning to introduce a mobile recycling unit soon that can be taken directly to a drill site and eliminate the truck hauling in both directions.

“The recycling was what High Sierra was most interested in, reclaiming and reusing it back in the fields,” White said.

Conquest Oil still exists as a separate company and operates six oil wells, White said.

“(It’s) not a real active company now,” he said. “Conquest Oil was the start of us in the energy business, and we have intentions of continuing the oil development work.”

With crude prices high, now is a good time for all aspects of the oil business, White said.

“(Oil) is a commodity-driven business,” he said. “Right now, natural gas is a little weak, but it’s a good time to have an oil well.”