Any parent will tell you that one of the greatest highlights of parenting is watching your children’s successes as they grow up. From hearing them speak their first words to watching them graduate from high school or college, witnessing your children’s accomplishments is a wonderful and satisfying feeling. The same is true for residents of the Barnett Shale region of North Texas who can rightfully feel proud to live where the shale energy revolution began. Texas oilman George Mitchell, who recently passed away, decided in 1981 that he was going to figure out how to get the Barnett Shale to release its natural gas. After 20 years of experimenting with a natural gas well in southwestern Wise County, he perfected the type of hydraulic fracturing that worked best in the Barnett Shale and later combined it with horizontal drilling. Others quickly figured out what Mitchell was doing and the development of the Barnett Shale took off like a rocket in 2002.
The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing was then adapted to shale deposits that contain crude oil, so that here are now over 50 shale deposits, containing natural gas and oil, being developed in the U. S., and countless others around the world. The result has been a continual series of good news for the last 10 years, including huge economic impacts, increased domestic energy production that could make the U. S. energy independent in the next few years and decreased carbon dioxide emissions as natural gas has replaced coal for the generation of electricity. The latest good news comes from a recent study from the research firm IHS that analyzed the huge positive impacts that natural gas and oil shales are having all over the United States. Some of the findings of the study, as reported in USA Today are: “Newly found sources of domestic oil and natural gas are having an even bigger impact on the economy than first projected, adding more than $1,200 last year to the discretionary income of the average U. S. family. “The biggest impact on many U.S. households is lower electricity and heating bills, accounting for about 75 percent of the average household’s gains. About $800 of that represents lower prices for natural gas-fueled heat and cooking, and $100 to $150 is from electricity rates lower than they otherwise would be.
Ed Ireland is executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council www.bseec.org> “The explosion in domestic energy production now supports 1.2 million jobs, directly or indirectly. That number will grow to 3.3 million by 2020, and new energy’s contribution to U. S. families’ disposable incomes will hit $2,000 per household per year by 2015, says IHS.” Closer to home, the economic stimulus to the entire state of Texas has been huge. As reported by the Dallas Morning News: “The clearest economic gains [were] in Texas, with 576,000 jobs added because of the oil and gas boom by the end of last year. Industrial natural gas costs in Texas are half the level paid by manufacturers in New Jersey, one-third of the cost faced by European manufacturers and a fourth of what Asian factories pay. That’s steering more manufacturing to Texas. Four international steel firms have announced $3.3 billion in new plants – two outside Corpus Christi, one in Bay City and one in Bryan.”
Texans boast that everything is bigger and better in Texas and this has certainly been the case for natural gas and oil shale deposits. Texas has more productive natural gas and oil shale deposits than any other state. It is only fitting that the technologies necessary to develop energy shales were honed in Texas and are now benefitting Texas more than any other state.
Ed Ireland is the executive director of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council