Woman at home in the oil, gas fields
RIFLE – When Brandy Schell gets dressed for work, she doesn’t put on a professional looking suit. She often wears a fire-retardant jumpsuit, safety glasses, steel-toed boots and a hard hat.In the oil and gas industry, which is made up predominantly of male workers, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of female employees working directly on the oil and gas rigs, but there are plenty working in other areas of the industry.And Schell is one of them.For the past 15 months, the 31-year-old Grand Junction resident has worked as an independent contractor for EnCana Oil & Gas (USA) in the company’s environmental health and safety division. Her office is based in Parachute, but her field work is done mostly in the south Piceance Basin.It’s a job that much of the time puts her outdoors, where she spends her free hours as well.Schell is contracted as a full-time worker in the Rifle area as an environmental field coordinator through her company, Echo Environmental Services. Her job includes doing storm-water inspections, monitoring access roads, weed management and reclamation of well pad sites.”The weed management (season) runs from April to October,” Schell said. “We try to keep the vegetation away from the equipment and from the pads and access roads.”Schell says that she doesn’t know of any women who work directly at the well pads, but there are quite a few that work in the oil and gas industry in other positions.”It’s about a 50/50 ratio in the environmental, compliance and administrative departments,” she said.Born in the Santa Barbara area of southern California, Schell had been coming to Colorado all her life, as she has relatives in the Grand Junction and Fruita areas. Her dad was in the Air Force, and the family lived in the Philippines when Schell was between the ages of 10 and 14, and then lived in Texas and Michigan.The family moved to Colorado in 1992, and Schell graduated from Palisade High School in 1993.She then attended Colorado Mountain College’s Leadville campus, where she said she became aware of the impacts from the previous oil and gas bust that occurred in western Colorado in the early 1980s.”I always loved biology, and I was interested in science and wildlife,” Schell said. “But I switched over from biology and wildlife to sciences and reclamation.”She earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Mesa State College and held several jobs with the Division of Wildlife, Mesa County and some private sector companies before being employed by EnCana.”I enjoy working outdoors,” Schell said. “I enjoy taking disturbed land and improving it. But you have to be patient. Nothing happens immediately.”Schell said it takes about three years from the time of the disturbance for a property to be 70 percent restored.”You start to see (improvements) within a year, but it typically takes about three years,” she said.And she very much enjoys the people she works with.”It’s an amazing group of people,” Schell said. “I work with some of the most hard-working, dedicated and incredible people.”When she’s not outside in the field, Schell spends her free time outdoors as well, either gardening, hiking, camping or playing with her 10-year-old Siberian Husky, Echo.”I do a lot of hiking and gardening,” she said. “I’m a plant freak. I’m always outdoors in one way or the other.”She and her boyfriend of 3 1/2 years, Rick Becker, recently purchased a home, which they share with Echo.Schell’s future plans include obtaining a master’s degree in the environmental field and eventually a career in consulting in the subjects of law and compliance.But until then, she is happy with what she is learning from her employment with EnCana.”EnCana provided me with the opportunity to go independent,” she said earnestly. “I’ve learned so much that I can take with me. And (they) have been incredibly supportive in taking on new ideas.”
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