Merrion Oil and Gas drills education into students

By Jenny Kane
Posted: 01/27/2012 01:00:00 AM MST


Students in the Merrion mentorship pose for a photo. (Courtesy photo)

FARMINGTON — Austin Riley, of Ignacio, Colo., got out of bed at about 5 a.m., every Wednesday morning so he could attend a no-credit, no-grade engineering mentorship across the state border in Farmington.”I learned a lot,” said Riley, a senior at Bayfield High School in Bayfield, Colo.

Riley was one of 26 high school seniors recognized this week for his completion of a rigorous engineering mentorship sponsored by Merrion Oil and Gas, a local company that regularly purchases regional drilling properties.

“I thought it’d be really cool to be introduced to what they do,” Riley said.

Students learned how to predict the performance of an oil well, predict the cost of operating an oil well and evaluate the value of a property for sale.

In the end, they put all of it to use.

“We have an opportunity almost every month to buy oil and gas properties,” said T. Greg Merrion, owner of Merrion Oil and Gas.

The students, using all of their knowledge, try to accurately evaluate a property actually being considered for purchase by the company.

“It’s a culmination of what the kids learned all year long,” Merrion said.

Every year, a few students drop out just before the final project, which is presenting their findings and what they believe to be the worth of the property to the big boss himself, Merrion.

“They have to use their communications skills to convince me their bid is the best,” Merrion said. “It’s national property that we actually want to buy.

This year, the students evaluated a property in Texas. Students grouped themselves into teams named everything from “Slumdog Drillionaires” to “Pumping Oil, Drilling Gas Steel-toed Rednecks Making Cash” before their analysis.

Their findings estimated the property to be worth as little as $250,000 and as much as $580,000. The closest class estimate was by the “Dinosaurs to Dollars” team, which guessed the property would sell for $320,000. The property sold in mid-December for $322,000.

“We got beat,” said George Sharpe, investment manager for Merrion Oil and Gas, who said the company’s bids are independent of the students’.

Sharpe, who instructs the students, began the program in 1994 when a single student approached him, hoping for insight into the world of engineering. Realizing that more students likely would enjoy the opportunity, Sharpe opened the offer to students throughout the region.

“They’re top-of-the-line kids,” Sharpe said.

The mentorship is offered every fall semester from the end of August to mid-December. For more information on the class, contact Sharpe at 505-324-531 or