A snoozing energy executive stuck in a window seat, flying into Denver’s airport, might be forgiven if he or she suddenly jolts awake as a flight attendant starts the “place your seatbacks and tray tables in their full, upright and locked positions as we prepare to land” routine.

Huh? Who? What? Where are we?

A glance out the window: It’s open country down there, pool-table flat, a busy piece of the oil patch. Look! Lease roads to large well pads with nodding pumpjacks, tank batteries, compressor stations—and over there is a large gas plant with a lazy flare.