Report: Booming Eagle Ford Shale created 48K jobs
An oil and gas bonanza in South Texas supported nearly 48,000 jobs last year while creating overnight boom towns cashing in on a $25 billion economic windfall from the liquid-rich Eagle Ford shale, according to a university study released Wednesday.
An energy rush that began with the first drilling in 2008 mushroomed into nearly 1,700 wells last year. Oil production is up more than six-fold since 2010 to more than 28 million barrels, while gas production has doubled.
The ladle-shaped shale formation stretches from the western Texas-Mexico border and hooks all the way toward Louisiana.
Blanketing the lucrative play are once-struggling rural counties that must now spend million-dollar tax rolls on infrastructure, development and education before the boom goes bust, cautioned the study from the University of Texas At San Antonio's Institute for Economic Development.
"The thing we're stressing to communities is sustainability," said Thomas Tunstall, the lead author and director of the university's Center for Community and Business Research. "What will they be left with when this is all over? It's not just a matter of how much oil and gas is out there."
The study was commissioned by America's Natural Gas Alliance, an industry trade group whose lobbying arm spent more than $3 million last year, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Tunstall said the report was objective and independent, and predicted that ANGA executives would view projections more optimistically than what he called more conservative estimates in the report.
How the shale formation has transformed the 20-county region can be seen daily in the convoy of tanker trucks snarling traffic in two-stoplight towns, and under-construction apartments that can't be built fast enough for the oil hands and engineers arriving in droves. The UTSA report, however, has been anticipated as the first comprehensive look at the actual economic numbers.
Most of the jobs involved the actual drilling sites, which employed an estimated 7,500 workers last year. Construction provided about 6,000 jobs, and there were another 1,800 working in scores of new restaurants and bars popping up. Tunstall said the demand for more housing and places to eat is so constant that a restaurant employee invited Wednesday to offer perspective on a panel said no because he was too busy.
In Asherton, Frac Tech Services built a 100-bed "man camp" because of the shortage of hotel rooms and RV parks.
Few places have experienced the boom quite like Karnes City, about an hour's drive south of San Antonio. Between 2010 and 2011, sales tax receipts there doubled to more than $458,000, according the study. Nearby Carrizo Springs also collected twice as much sales tax last year, bringing in more than $1.7 million.
Many towns are dealing with crumbling roads chewed up by the constant march of rolling 18-wheelers, but Tunstall said the boom hasn't slowed despite deteriorating infrastructure and counties struggling to provide skilled workers or places for them to live.
"We keep wondering if labor or housing shortages, or road conditions, could be a limiting factor," Tunstall said.
The report's most moderate projections estimate the shale formation could be supporting as many as 117,000 jobs by 2021.
"But things can slow down for any reason," Tunstall said.