The Southern Ute Indian Tribe is credited with leading the way for Native American tribes around the nation to develop and manage potential energy resources.
“I think many tribes keep an eye on the Southern Utes,” said Tracey LeBeau, director for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs. “They have set a great example for Indian Country on tribal energy development.”
It started decades ago when the tribe took the lead in developing and distributing its formidable natural-gas reserves. It then funneled those returns into a diversity of investments – everything from real estate to alternative energy. Although Southern Ute officials did not respond to requests for interviews, here’s an overview of the tribe’s energy pursuits:
Red Willow Production Co.
The tribe’s main oil and natural-gas production company with operations in the Western states and the Gulf of Mexico. Red Willow is actively engaged in conventional oil and gas exploration and production and uses state-of-the-art technologies to find and develop economic oil and gas reserves.
Panther Energy Co.
The company was formed in 2005, when the Southern Utes purchased Cannon Energy Co. The company has grown through oil and gas discoveries off the reservation. It works in partnership with Red Willow to develop the discoveries. The tribe reports that Panther Energy is on the cutting edge of drilling and production technology and is a leader in the industry in exploiting oil and gas reserves.
Red Cedar Gathering Co.
A natural-gas gathering and treating company headquartered in Durango. The majority of its operations are within the Southern Ute reservation. The company gathers and treats gas from all of the geological formations and coal seams within the San Juan Basin and delivers treated gas to intrastate and interstate pipelines. Red Cedar is a joint venture between the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners.
Aka Energy Group
This wholly owned subsidiary of the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, formed in 2002, is similar to Red Cedar except that the company’s operations are outside the tribe’s Ignacio-area reservation. Aka Energy gathers and compresses natural gas from producing wells, treats the gas to remove impurities, and separates and markets the natural-gas liquids from the gas stream. After treating and processing, the remaining gas is sold into gas utility or transmission pipelines. Aka Energy operates in six states.
Southern Ute Alternative Energy
The tribe’s newest enterprise, it was formed in 2008 to manage investments in alternative and renewable energy. The company’s objective is to focus on opportunities in areas that tribal leaders believe will produce positive environmental impacts and that have sound technologies and solid economics. Alternative Energy is involved with ventures in wind energy, electrical transmission and biofuels.
A wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Ute Alternative Energy, the company was formed to develop wind-power projects.
Wheatgrass Ridge Wind
A company jointly formed with Shoshone-Bannock Renewable Energy Development. The company was created to pursue wind development on Wheatgrass Ridge, which is on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in southeastern Idaho. Among the company’s projects are a 160-megawatt wind project that could include more than 50 turbines on the reservation.
An algae production technology developer working to bring algae-based biocrude, or transportation fuel, and other algae-based production equipment and products to market on an industrial scale. The company is headquartered in Fort Collins and has a demonstration plant on the Southern Ute Indian reservation. The company is investor funded, and the tribe is one of multiple principle partners.
Sources: Southern Ute Indian Tribe website, individual company websites and official news releases.