A big gobsmackin’ oil boom

by david on February 19, 2013

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Is the Cline Shale 10X bigger than Eagle Ford?

That statement above is just one headline I have read lately speculating on how big the current boom in West Texas is.  If the Cline Shale play is indeed 10 times bigger than Eagle Ford Shale  play, then it is just huge.  Bigger than I can imagine.

Most you you readers know the part of Texas I live in which I often refer to as Real Texas, is right smack dab in the middle of a big ole Texas oil boom.  The roads boil with the dust of oilfield traffic and the pickups, sand trucks and water haulers, and other transport type trucks are up and down our West Texas roads 24 hours a day.  We even have a railroad hauling everything from sand for fracing Cline basinformations to heavy equipment, to crude oil that runs through this small town twice a day.  Commerce is everywhere.

I once owned the newspaper in Big Lake, Texas as well as a couple of online trade publications.  The small city of Big Lake, with a population of around 3,000 souls, now regularly has a daytime population of close to 7,000, sometimes 10,000 according to city and county officials.  Across a wide area of West Texas, restaurants are full, convenience stores are coffee and 24-hour fast food paradises, and housing is scarce and many times non-existent.  Oilfield workers are living in rented apartments, rented rooms in houses, mobile homes, travel trailers and RV’s of all shapes and sizes.

There are plenty of oilfield jobs for the young men and some intrepid women who work the oilfield and money seems plentiful also.  Families are driving newer vehicles than they did a few years ago and the economy out here is buzzing right along.

It reminds me of a bumper sticker after the 1980’s oil collapse. That bumper sticker said,

“Lord, please send us another oil boom and we promise not to screw it up this time.”


This time, the oil boom is the result of a lot of hard work and research by geologists and drilling specialists and newer methods of extracting oil and natural gas out of shale formations at a depth between 9,000 to 11,000 feet.  Many of the wells being drilled are of the horizontal variety.  I noticed in the drilling report yesterday that one particular company was planning on drilling 11 new wells in my county (Irion) at a depth in excess of 9,000 feet and they were all horizontal wells.

I remember a few years back when a seismograph crew came to Big Lake and stayed about two years.  They worked quite a bit in the Farmer’s field area south of Big Lake and on into North Reagan County and parts of Irion County.  It was all hush, hush at the time and the ‘doodlebuggers’ were very closed mouth about what they had discovered.  That area and quite a few more square miles is now known as the Cline Shale play.  We shoulda paid closer attention to what they were doing back then.

Lying approximately 9,250 feet below the surface, the Cline, an emerging unconventional energy play on the eastern flank of the Midland Basin, runs roughly 140 miles north-south and is 70 miles wide through portions of Coke, Fisher, Glasscock, Howard, Irion, Nolan, Reagan, Scurry, Mitchell, and Sterling counties.

First estimates, which are usually low, indicate the Cline holds more than 30 billion barrels of recoverable oil, exceeding both the Bakken fields in North Dakota and Eagle Ford Shale.  Shale is an abundant very porous sedimentary rock formation.  The Cline shale is bigger than the amazing Eagle Ford in South Texas by nearly 50 percent. There already is a ton of oil production, along with jobs and an economic boom, coming out of Eagle Ford Shale, found just below Bexar County and 400 miles long and 50 miles wide, according to the Texas Railroad Commission. Within eight years, Eagle Ford, which affects 30 counties that touch the Mexican border and extend to East Texas, and the Bakken will produce more oil annually than Saudi Arabia, predicts the International Energy Agency.

And when the Cline Shale play comes into full production it will be a sight to see.  Why?

The Cline Shale reservoir of oil is believed to be 200 to 550 feet deep, which is the equivalent of 10 Eagle Ford shales stacked on top of each other. The shale contains 85 percent oil and liquids-rich gas.  I live right in the middle of this fantastic Real Texas boom area.  You can literally see the infrastructure building out to accommodate this gobsmackin’ oil boom right before your eyes in  Midland/Odessa, Sweetwater, Snyder, San Angelo, Big Lake, Mertzon, and many more oil bases throughout West Texas

From all reports, it’s gonna be big.  Here’s a bit of history:

Santa Rita No. 1

Santa Rita No. 1

Just 13 or so miles down the road from Big Lake, Santa Rita No. 1 blew in back in  1923.  Oil operators have been punching holes in the ground in the Permian Basin ever since.  In fact, the Cline Shale, Baakan Shale, and many more drilling areas are really coming on strong.  It’s so strong that predictions are that the United States will become the world’s largest oil producer just a few short years from now.  Yep, bigger than Saudi Arabia.  All that news is good for Texas and good for the USA……if we don’t screw it up this time.

Change the world?

If the president wanted to change the world almost overnight, he can quit issuing presidential decrees on things he knows we won’t follow out here such as gun control, but he could mandate that all federal cars and  trucks be run on compressed natural gas.  In addition to adding thousands of good paying jobs, the USA would be energy independent.  The infrastructure to support CNG would be built almost overnight as demand surged.  Goodbye Arab oil dependence and good riddance. It is estimated we have over a one hundred year supply of clean burning natural gas in the USA.

We love wind generation too.

And it’s not that the wind doesn’t blow out here either.  I can drive just over the hill from where I live and see a couple of hundred wind generation towers all turning into the wind.  And there is a massive transmission line project that stretches from here to San Antonio or beyond. The towers are still going up along Interstate 10.

We have energy coming out our ears around here.

The Permian Basin is an oil producing area that is about 250 miles wide and 300 miles long.  It is a geographic area of legendary status.  A good many fortunes have been made and lost since in the West Texas oilfields since the drilling of Santa Rita No. 1 and the thousands of wells to come after it.

Santa Rita No. 1 attracted a whole generation of oil workers and speculators and San Angelo along with Midland/Odessa became a major beneficiaries of the oil boom.  The train ran from San Angelo to the Santa Rita Well site and it attracted oil speculators, con men, young men with big dreams, plenty of money, and plenty of women to San Angelo.

Now we have another boom.  And it is a newer generation of oilfield folks almost from derrick men at the top of the drilling rigs and workover rigs to the floorhands, to the oil speculators.  The older crowd either retired or just went broke after the last bust cycle and never came back to the oilfield.  There is also a new generation  of truck and transport drivers.  We also have to watch our driving in this area just so we don’t get run over by a transport truck or roustabout truck.  This area is where the activity is these days, along with a few other big shale formations where new technologies is allowing recovery of significant reserves.

We just hope we don’t screw it up this time…..

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

VickieNo Gravatar February 19, 2013 at 9:30 am

How timely your article is. I’ve blogged about this for several posts and the impact these migrant workers are having on RV parks. It’s to the point that people who fulltime RV, like us, have difficulty finding an RV park to stay in since they all seem to be catering to these fulltime crews…and, some are charging much higher rates because they can get it! This means that we need to vacation in areas other than where the drilling is…which kind of puts a crimp in our plans to exclusively tour Texas.

I don’t begrudge these workers their jobs or a place to live. I just wish the drilling companies would dedicate land for them to park on like they are doing in North Dakota. They’ve built large metal buildings that are divided off into living spaces for the men. Of course, that doesn’t help those men who bring their families. We’ve even have workers here in Lake Conroe who are in contruction so we are seeing a new type of camp…also known as “Man Camps”.

It’s a changing world and we’ll go with the change…even if it includes us changing our lifestyle. Thanks David for verification of what I’ve been researching. Very well done.


Ron CameronNo Gravatar February 19, 2013 at 10:17 am

I attended a funeral in Pleasanton, just south of San Antonio, a few months ago. They are experiencing the same thing–as you mentioned in your article. Good news for USA & better news for Texas.
One question: is Vickie referring to Lake Conroe in Texas or is there also one in North Dakota? My daughter & family live on Lake Conroe (Montgomery County, Tx), but I’m not aware of any extra boom going on there, although it is a hustle-bustle area. Great article, David. I will share it !


VickieNo Gravatar February 19, 2013 at 11:16 am

Ron…We’re at KOA at Lake Conroe, TX. The boom I’m referring to is in construction. ExxonMobile is building offices just outside of The Woodlands. There is also a lot of new buildings being constructed along Market Street. Our campground has quite a few construction workers that come from other states to work at these jobs. There are several who have brought their families and the children are home schooled. These workers are quiet and the children are well behaved. They all work long hours so you don’t see them much. I agree…this is good for our economy.


Ron CameronNo Gravatar February 19, 2013 at 11:25 am

Thanks for explanation. My daughter lives in Walden community just north of the big Wal-Mart on Hwy. 105. They love it down there. I do know things are moving down there.


J. B. BitnerNo Gravatar February 19, 2013 at 11:54 am

Very interesting article, David. Sure hope we don’t mess anything up this time!
Good to see you and Ramona enjoying every moment of each day.


Terry BerryNo Gravatar February 19, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Shale is not very porous at all. Generally it is ultra fine grained and would be characterized as a mud stone. As the pressure and heat compressing the ancient mud cause fluid to flow out of the stone it compresses and may create thin layers that break apart relatively easily. Generally shale was considered a source rock for the oil and gas that moved into sandstone and limestone reservoirs. We knew the shale had oil and gas 50 years ago but there was no economical means to extract the petroleum. The only space that could capture oil and gas was within the layers and natural fractures of the rock. Now we can connect the fractures horizontally and use hydraulic fracturing to expand the productive area around the borehole. The technology and economics have opened new horizons for the exploration of petroleum.

Keep up the good work. Terry Berry – Retired Geologist and Engineer.


davidNo Gravatar February 23, 2013 at 10:45 am

Thank you sir! I always appreciate more detailed explanations on technical issues.


DelfinaNo Gravatar February 19, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Good article, but I always enjoy reading your articles.


JacobNo Gravatar February 19, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Great article David! It is booming big time here in the Midland/Odessa area. My company is booming with the oil boom in terms of trying to keep up with all the new construction, land development, and such. It’s a great sight to see, and I look forward to seeing how this oil boom turns out. It sure is weird going back home to Big Lake to seeing all these people and the changes being made each trip. I agree to that hope we don’t screw it up this time! Only time will reveal if history repeats or if we will make new history! Great article! My favorite by far!


Les FranklinNo Gravatar February 19, 2013 at 10:35 pm

I really liked your article. I wish the oil boom wasn’t moving so fast, but then it wouldn’t be a boom. There’s no way to slow it down. Things are certainly going to look a lot different in just a few years. Don’t stick your toes in the stirrups too far. This could be a wild ride.


Mike EnglemanNo Gravatar February 22, 2013 at 9:13 am

“If the president wanted to change the world almost overnight, he can quit issuing presidential decrees on things he knows we won’t follow out here such as gun control, but he could mandate that all federal cars and trucks be run on compressed natural gas.”

Yup, David, you got that exactly right. As Terry explained above, horizontal drilling offers the potential of making the U.S. energy independent–if we can find additional markets for natural gas (such as CNG-fueled cars). But, it ain’t happening. Up here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area we’ve had a mini-boom of rigs drilling to the Barnet Shale–primarily for natural gas. But with gas under $3.50 a BCF, the rigs are moving out of the area.

If we had the infrastructure that supported the retail sales of natural gas and American-made autos that would run on CNG, we could have the luxury of allowing the Arabs to kill each other with abandon.

Having the Feds take the lead in developing such an infrastructure ain’t a half-bad idea to come from an old boy who probably thinks “slant-hole drilling” is the same thing as horizontal drilling.


Billy BobNo Gravatar February 24, 2013 at 10:54 pm

David I enjoyed your story about the Cline Shale boom. I am from Big Lake or guess I should say Texon. I was in High School when the Bendum-Had-a Call boom was going on. There was about 250-300 rigs running between Big Lake and Midland in the early 50s you could go to work any were then. I have been thinking about coming out of retirement and working as a Gate Guard in the Eagle Ford Shale. Do they have Gate Guards that work the gates going into the rigs there were you are? By the way I went to school with your older sister Beth.


Lois MillerNo Gravatar May 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm

I have heard about the boom going on. Hope to come back soon to see for myself.
David I did enjoy your article. I am a little late finding it but hope there will be others/


RayNo Gravatar December 23, 2013 at 11:44 pm

I grew up in Fisher County back in the days of the “wild cats”. I remember driving from Rotan to Hamlin at night was pretty awesome back then – those tall rigs would be all lit up. There seemed to be hundreds of them, just along that twenty mile span of country highway. The rigs were on both sides of the highway, which runs east to west, for as far as you could see. Those were the good old days! Maybe it will be that way again.


RayNo Gravatar December 23, 2013 at 11:56 pm

Going back even further, my mother talked about living in the little town of Best, Texas circa 1927 – when there was a big oil boom going on there. Her first husband worked in the oil fields around there. my mother and their infant daughter lived there for a few months – until things got so rough that he sent them back to Brownwood to stay with her parents. Mother talked about the governor sending a Texas Ranger in to restore law and order because it was such a wild and lawless place.


MikeNo Gravatar May 28, 2016 at 10:25 pm

How is it going now?


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