TRIPLETT: Bonanza on the Eagle Ford Shale

A new energy revolution is unfolding in South Texas

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ATASCOSA COUNTY, Texas — The American flag flies proudly from the drilling rig. It’s the first thing you see when you step out of the car.

Employees of Pumpco, an oil-field supplier, and Stuart Petroleum Testers wear American flag badges on the shoulders of their coveralls. When asked about it, they give a great big grin — proud of their jobs, proud of their companies and proud of the contribution they are making to their country. As well they should.

Eventually, the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas will fail to have a record increase in production, but not today. Now, production is running at about 1.2 million barrels per day and most estimates are that it will reach 1.5 million, a 25 percent increase, by 2015 at the latest. Certainly, a South Texas rig visit reminds a visitor of what the Manhattan Project must have been like in World War II — a 24/7 operation by a diverse team of highly competent professionals dedicated to making a new American energy revolution.

It’s possible to get lost in the numbers and lose sight of the people who are actually making it happen. The following is a very brief snapshot of who they are and what contribution they make.

Truck drivers: All over the interior United States, trucking companies are begging for drivers. The reason? They’ve all gone to Texas. There are $5,000-signup-bonus billboards along the Texas interstates and haulers have “now hiring” posted permanently. The drivers in the Eagle Ford haul sand, gravel, water, pipe and anything else needed at the drilling site. Often they work in family groups, and they do quite well.

Drillers: A tough, sometimes dirty job, mostly performed by young men who can handle physical labor, but they get well paid for it — up to $1,600 a week.

Women on the job site: A woman driving a one-ton Ford hauling a trailer passed by coming out of the oil fields in Karnes City, Texas. Women are on the site, usually driving trucks, but where women really shine is in team coordination. Typically, the owner of a drill site will have less than a half-dozen or so people on-site, but there may be up to 30 contractors and subcontractors.

Women work very hard making certain there is a full crew, that everyone is on station and on time. No excuses for someone out sick or on some sort of emergency leave. Female coordinators may have to juggle 100 men spread out all over South Texas. They have real responsibility and are respected for it. Increasingly, women also run their own companies as contractors and subcontractors.

Hispanics: You meet all kinds in the Eagle Ford — white Americans, black Americans and a lot of hard-working Hispanics. A major fracking operation has four teams of about 20 men each. A quick look at the roll of just one team reveals 15 Hispanic family names out of 20, and half the team leaders are Hispanic.

As is typical in the shale revolution, people begin as employees, get the entrepreneurial bug and start their own companies. Zapata Trucking is just one of numerous Hispanic names painted on the doors of trucks serving the Eagle Ford.

Veterans: It may be the teamwork and sense of adventure that attracts so many recent veterans to the Eagle Ford. The regional official of a major company has his medals prominently displayed on the wall behind his desk — from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Information technicians: Parts break unexpectedly, trucks run off the road, and all of this has to be remedied over hundreds of square miles. Some of the major companies have their own dedicated communications systems. Depending on what you count, perhaps as much as 30 percent of the cost of drilling a shale well in the Eagle Ford is in some way information technology-related.

Local Texas economy: “Eagle Ford Shale still booming” reads the headline in the Gonzales County Inquirer. “Rail yards bring new jobs” is splashed across the front page of the “Wilson County News” as it tells its readers of the “hundreds of new jobs” coming as a result of “the Eagle Ford shale.”

Beyond the Eagle Ford: One major Eagle Ford player buys a new truck from a dealer in San Antonio every other day. Many of these trucks are heavy-duty, and hence, a bigger markup for the dealer and Detroit. Multiply these every-other-day trucks sales by the numbers other Eagle Ford players, adding in the personal vehicles purchased by employees, and you can see why the Detroit automakers are doing so well.

The American energy revolution is a true game-changer and deserves the enthusiastic support of the American people.

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