Life in the Eagle Ford Boom

A dispatch on how the petrodollars from the Eagle Ford Shale boom are reshaping life in South Texas.
Wed April 4, 2012 12:38 am
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Need a primer on how the Eagle Ford Shale discovery is changing life in South Texas? John MacCormack of the San Antonio Express-News returned to Carrizo Springs to file another dispatch from the boomtown.

"The richest gas and oil play ever in South Texas is rapidly changing a region where historically wages were low and opportunities were few, and which promising young people tried to escape as soon as possible. The boom has also blown up all the old economic realities, as oil and gas companies are pouring billions into the region to tap the sweet hydrocarbon lode found in a shale formation beneath two dozen counties," MacCormack writes.

Now, roughnecks pull in six-figure salaries, which local motels and restaurants—and strip clubs —help them spend. (Prostitutes, too, have been drawn in by the money. Revisit MacCormack's story from last August that explores the arrival of the sex workers.)

The area is packed with man camps, which MacCormack describes as "large clusters of mobile homes equipped with bathrooms and a mess hall" where oilmen rent beds for anywhere from $125 to $160 a day. Companies that can't afford those rates put their workers up in makeshift housing, which ranges from "horse trailers to converted shipping containers to mobile units parked by the rig site."

On the whole, however, life in the Eagle Ford is cushier for rig workers than other booms have been: “The good-old days were the hard-old days. If you lived at the drilling rig, you lived in a little room with six or eight guys on top of you. You ate whatever you could bring out there, and you took a shower every three days,” said Alan Roberts, a 53-year-old oilfield worker who has spent time offshore from Norway to Africa.

But the boom in Eagle Ford is drawing out more people by the day. “The money may sound astounding, but put on a pair of boots and come get you some of it. See if you like it. And you'd better hope that you have the same amount of people there when you get up as when you went to bed," he said.

Late last month, the Express-News's Vicki Vaughan surveyed how the area's roads are holding up. "To complete a single well in the oil- and gas-rich shale in South Texas, trucks must make hundreds of trips to transport equipment, water and sand to sites for drilling and hydraulic fracturing," she wrote. Some dirt and caliche roads are not holding up under this traffic, and have become "nearly impassable."

“These are roads that nobody except Grandpa Schultz and some deer hunters used to use,”  DeWitt County Judge Daryl Fowler told Vaughan.

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