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White Hat or Black Hat?

2 rigs drilling

If you are an oil field gate guard, do you ever wonder if you are working for the good guys?  Or the bad guys?  Sometimes when I see truck after truck rolling out of here loaded with some sort of liquid refuse that I know is going to be funneled down an injection well, that question crosses my mind.

When we go into Muenster,  the restaurants and c-stores are crowded with oil field hands.  The local motels are packed parking lots of oil field trucks.  Nobody in Muenster is refusing the flood of greenback dollars being shoved in their hands.  Some do it with the attitude they are making a deal with the devil.

Our recent trip to the hinterlands of Southwest Texas was a mile by mile travelogue of  Small Texas and Big Oil.  You see, we rarely venture out on the BIG ROAD in the Old Girl.  I have to drive too fast and Tuco the Dog misses the numerous picnic area pull overs on the Farm to Market roads.  So we just sorta veer off down through the country,  through all the small town city centers and we look and comment on the before-during-after of Rural Texas small town history.

Small Town Texas - 2011

Texas  is BIG, make no mistake.   Back east, the Old Girl would hardly get her little diesel warmed up before I would pass from one state into the next.  Out here,  I can drive for two days and still not cross the Texas border.   On this trip we skirted the western edge of the Eagle Ford Shale play and then drove through the Permian Basin.   It was interesting to see the effect and the left overs of the oil economy in Texas.

Before oil exploration and extraction became such a huge deal down here in the Lone Star, Texas was mostly about farming and ranching.  Sure, there was that big ol’ Dallas that always tried to act cool and chic like a yankee burg or sprawling Houston that was just dirty,gritty and industrial but most of Texas was just down home rural.  About every twenty or forty miles there would be a good sized little town that served as the hub for that area.  The farmers and ranchers made their weekly or monthly trips to the hub to buy groceries and feed, new overalls and straw Stetsons or borrow money from the local banker.   That ain’t so any more.

Small Town Texas - 2011

We see it driving through.   Boarded up businesses, turn of the century brick buildings falling down,  no cars parked out on the street because there is no place left to spend a dollar.   Maybe a Super Wal Mart opened up out on the highway and put them out or maybe a manufacturing plant closed up and the kids had to move to the big city for work;  I don’t know.  I do know these little towns are dead,  populated by aging retirees who remember what it was like when they had two banks and a movie show.  When those old folks die off, I guess they will turn out the lights for good.

When we were out in the Permian Basin, we did see evidence that some of these small towns had come back to life maybe 20 years ago when the oil business was booming out that way.  In some ways, the re-birth and second death of these little places may be even more dismal than the natural death of the farm/ranch communities.  It is almost like they have no honor in their demise.  The oil business stripped the dignity away and left in its’ place tin buildings that are falling to pieces in accelerated fashion, rusty old pipe yards and huge steel hunks of worn out oil field equipment in the corners of dusty and pot holed parking lots.

The towns in the Eagle Ford were booming- much as Muenster is.  I observed all that was going on with trepidation because permanence seemed fleeting and sustained growth does not seem possible.

Perfect example is Cuero, TX and the essay that follows looks at both sides…….

In 2008, Petrohawk Energy sank an oil well on Charlotte Krause’s land in the green fields north of Cuero. Drillers bored into the shale layer 8,000 feet below the surface, blasted it with explosives, and smashed it with millions of gallons of hydraulically pressured, chemical-laden water. Up came a frothy mix of water, oil and gas. The drilling process, known as fracking, filled Petrohawk’s tanks with millions of dollars in oil and natural gas.

The moment lacked the drama of Spindletop. No geyser burst from the ground, shooting into the sky high above the fields of DeWitt County. The oil was loaded onto tanker trucks bound for a refinery in Corpus Christi.

Oil Tanker in Downtown Cuero

But for the town, and for Krause, the well was every bit as significant as Spindletop. After that, everything changed.The well on Krause’s property was the first successful one in the Eagle Ford Shale, a layer of underground rock stretching in a rough crescent from Victoria to Del Rio, on the Mexican border. Suspended in the shale are countless tiny droplets of oil and natural gas. Until a few years ago, this gas and oil was considered commercially useless. Then came hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which blasts the shale apart, releasing the trapped oil and gas. In the Marcellus Shale of Pennsylvania and southern New York and the Barnett Shale of North Texas, fracking opened vast oil and gas reserves to development.

The Eagle Ford Shale is one of the hottest areas in shale drilling, and Cuero is currently the heart of the region’s drilling boom. The rapid change caught the town’s 6,800 residents by surprise. In a few years, Cuero has gone from quiet ranching town to oil boomtown. Tanker trucks rumble through the streets. Roughnecks, dusty in their coveralls, are everywhere, sitting at restaurant tables, walking out of the Shell station with cases of beer.

Restaurants, hotels and retailers are flush with cash. Every hotel and RV park in town is booked—some for two years out. Local entrepreneurs can’t keep up with demand for lodging. H-E-B and Walmart are already planning supercenters.

Petrohawk, Geosouthern and other energy companies specializing in shale gas production have opened offices on the town’s main drag. Mineral lease money has turned some local ranchers into millionaires.

Some citizens see the oil and gas as a ticket to a new tomorrow, a way to turn Cuero into the town they always dreamed it could be. Others fear that the oil boom will eventually go bust, taking everything that once made the town a special place to live down with it. Like the energy companies, which are betting on the shale to produce millions in oil and gas, Cuero is gambling its future on fracking.

You can read the rest of this well written article here

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5 comments to White Hat or Black Hat?

  • Joel

    Dammit, Andy, your writing just gets better and better!

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  • Black hat vote for me.

    Hopefully out here in Langtry we can make it without the FRACKING. But we all know money talks, bullshit walks and the truth is only a bank deposit away:^)

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  • vickie zugelder

    Enjoyed reading the myoldrv if Kathy gets this, I retired last year with 30 yrs. with AT&T and we have an RV. We’re looking into gate guard work. I am wondering if you have to apply direct to the companies ie BP and Shell or is there a company that sends RVers to these jobs as they open up for the companies?

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    • Andrew

      Hi Vickie!

      I sent this to Miss K for a direct reply via email.

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