The developers of the SWAN Ranch mixed-use project in southeastern Wyoming knew from the start their odds of success were good because of the property’s prime location just south of Cheyenne. Then they got lucky.
The 4,000-acre development, which contractors believe is currently the largest in the state, is situated near Interstates 25 and 80, and served by the Union Pacific and BNSF railroads.
“As far as I know, SWAN Ranch is the biggest project in the state now, twice as big as the next-largest one,” said Dean Byrne, project superintendent at W.N. Murry Construction Co. of Casper, a major contractor at the ranch and sister company of developer Granite Peak Development LLC.
In the last few years, energy companies have flocked to the nearby, potentially rich Niobrara shale oil play that runs through the Denver-Julesburg Basin of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. Recent improvements to fracking technology have allowed drillers to finally extract oil there from the shale rock in which it’s embedded. Energy industry analysts estimate the Niobrara formation could yield as many as 2 billion barrels of crude oil.
“We thought initially the ranch was a transportation hub, with its proximity to the intersection of I-25 and I-80, and with the railroads there,” said Dan Guerttman, director of finance at Casper-based Granite Peak Development. “It looked like a distribution center to us. … We didn’t know about the Niobrara when we started, but it has accelerated development.”
Major energy companies already working on drilling operations in the Niobrara include ConocoPhillips, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., and the team of Chesapeake Energy Corp., Oklahoma City, and Chinese energy giant CNOOC Ltd., Hong Kong.
Businesses that serve such companies have bought land for operations in SWAN Ranch’s first phase, the 527-acre Cheyenne Logistics Hub rail park at the property’s southern tip. Those service providers include Cheyenne-based Midwestern Wyoming Inc., which is building a 60,000-sq-ft pipe-coating plant and 17,000-sq-ft fabrication shop on 55 acres at the ranch. The project is scheduled for completion this fall.
Bell Supply Co., Gainesville, Texas, opened its 10,000-sq-ft blue metal showroom facility, with offices and a five-acre pipe yard, at the site in August.
Houston-based Schlumberger Ltd., one of the world’s largest oilfield services firms, is putting up a 52,000-sq-ft regional service center on 65 rail-served acres. Construction on the project started in the summer and is scheduled to finish later this year.
Another type of energy company has also come to SWAN Ranch. Gestamp Worthington Wind Steel LLC, a U.S.-Spanish partnership, is building its North American wind tower manufacturing plant at the development. The 160,000-sq-ft plant will serve Wyoming’s burgeoning wind-energy industry and is expected to create 150 jobs.
Oil-blending company Jebro Inc., Sioux City, Iowa, is building a liquid-asphalt terminal that’s expected to produce 8 million gal. a year and employ five people.