While Atrisco Oil and Gas is a relatively new entity, oil and natural gas development is not new to the land grant. The first commercial oil and gas development began on March 1920 when David J. Metzgar, then president of the Atrisco Board of Trustees, signed the first lease to an outside interest to explore and develop oil and natural gas resources. From 1925 through 1947, C.H. Conner held oil and gas leases in multi-year increments and Myrtle Conner held leases into the 1950s.
In 1959, the board of trustees granted permits to Armando Giannini to prospect for uranium and to Samuel Jelso to explore for oil and gas. In the 1970’s, Shell Oil was active on these lands and spent a considerable amount of money and time gathering data about the lands. These efforts determined that hydrocarbons were present, but no commercial success was ever realized.
In the recent past, Atrisco Oil and Gas has worked with Texas-based Tecton Energy, LLC., in hopes of discovering natural gas. In 2008, Atrisco located a large reservoir of brackish water during its hydrocarbon exploration efforts. In a wild process of staking claims for deep water discoveries in New Mexico, Atrisco’s position as discoverer, first claimant, and beneficial user are vital factors in their effort to demonstrate ownership of this new resource. So, while the more recent efforts have not resulted in hydrocarbons, these efforts should likely have future benefits for the Atrisco heirs. In furtherance of understanding the best use of the brackish water, Atrisco Oil and Gas has worked with scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratories to analyze the water quality and determine the water’s best use, given its brackish nature. At this moment it is unlikely the water could be purified and used as a potable water resource. Economic factors, as they stand today, favor an alternative use with the water in its brackish state. Therefore, projects such as bio-fuel production from algae growth (using brackish water as a feedstock) look like a more economical path. However, even these types of projects today have limitations.