Barnett still packs economic punch, study finds

A. Lee Graham

Despite reduced drilling and unstable gas prices, Fort Worth continues reaping the rewards of the Barnett Shale, according to a newly released study by The Perryman Group. Commissioned by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce and conducted by Perryman, a Waco-based research and analysis firm, the September 2014 impact study credits oil and natural gas exploration for adding $11.8 billion in gross product per year and more than 107,650 permanent jobs to the North Texas region.

The area spans Tarrant, Denton, Johnson and Wise counties – considered the region’s “core” counties – as well as Archer, Bosque, Clay, Comanche, Cooke, Dallas, Eastland, Ellis, Erath, Hamilton, Hill, Hood, Jack, Montague, Palo Pinto, Parker, Shackelford, Somervell, Stephens and Young counties. The study found annual gross product rising by $700 million since Perryman conducted the last comparable study in 2011. Announcing the findings at a Sept. 10 news conference in Fort Worth, Ray Perryman, president and CEO of the research firm, heralded the 5,000-square-mile Barnett Shale play for packing an economic punch to the North Texas region and state. “Even with the recession and the drop in [natural] gas prices, the production and job levels have remained stable and provide ongoing benefits to the region and the state,” Perryman said.

“The energy produced from the Barnett Shale is an important domestic fuel source for the nation with significant strategic and economic value,” Perryman said. Sharing the study’s outlook is Ed Ireland, executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, an industry group based in Fort Worth. “What I think the Perryman study indicated was that the actual drilling of wells is not what creates the main economic impact,” said Ireland, pointing to Fort Worth-based FTS International Inc. and other firms involved to varying degrees in the energy industry. “Rather, it’s companies that manufacture pumps and other equipment used in the oil and gas industry, companies located in the Barnett region that continue boosting the economy,” Ireland said.

- FWBP Digital Partners -

Perryman predicted higher exploration activity for both natural gas and oil in the near future as price and global market conditions change. Among factors that could accelerate activity are higher liquefied natural gas capacity development, infrastructure allowing more uses for natural gas, and tighter emission regulations for utilities, he said. Annual tax receipts paint an upbeat picture, with economic activity in all 25 regional counties packing a cumulative $480.6 million impact to municipalities, counties and other local governmental entities, as well as $644.7 million to the state of Texas. Statewide, the Barnett’s economic impact is estimated to total $12.8 billion in annual gross product while adding about 115,000 permanent jobs. Tax receipts throughout the state include $517.3 million to local governments and $686.3 million per year. The study credited almost 40 percent of the region’s incremental growth since 2001 as a direct result of Barnett Shale activity. More than 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas have been produced from about 18,000 wells in the shale play since 2001. That’s 66 percent more than the 9 trillion cubic feet in 2011 and despite only 19 rigs operating in the Barnett as of Sept. 1, 2014.