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Crossroads sees a rise in regional oil and gas drilling projects

By ALLISON MILES
March 19, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 18, 2011 at 10:19 p.m.


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From the growing number of crews working in the region to the added oil derricks in the fields, signs show oil and gas drilling projects are on the rise throughout the Crossroads.

And business leaders say the projects mean an economic boost to the region.

Refugio County saw the most drilling activity in recent years, according to Texas Railroad Commission data. The county has seen a total 1,139 approved permits since 2006 and already 31 in 2011.

Just because a permit is issued, it does not mean crews will find oil on the land.

While drilling was already under way throughout the county, recent Eagle Ford Shale projects provided an extra boost to the workforce, said Lenny Anzaldua, president of the Refugio County Chamber of Commerce.

When offshore drilling closed, he said many larger companies ventured to the area and picked up jobs the local, privately-owned companies had under way, adversely affecting layoffs. Eagle Ford Shale, however, gave the larger companies another place to turn their focus, relieving the smaller jobs for others.

"If the question is, 'Is Eagle Ford Shale play good for Refugio County?' The answer is yes," said Anzaldua, who also works as the county's economic development director. "Definitely yes."

Local companies tag into the drilling projects, he said, noting Refugio County trucks and more are running in Kenedy, Karnes City and more.

A new fracking plant in Refugio offers a new boost, he said, noting that a rail spur goes along with it.

"Plus, a lot of our support companies have picked up activity," he said. "Construction of plants and a couple of other things going on in the expansion has brought a retail boost to the hotels, motels and restaurants, as well as the gas stations."

Best Western in Refugio experienced a recent increase in room rentals, said Ray Patel, the hotel manager. Although the business does not track the reason guests stay in town, he said the drilling projects might contribute.

"We're not full, but there is an increase," he said. "It's good. Whatever increases the business, we are glad for that."

Anzaldua said he attended a recent meeting about the Eagle Ford Shale projects and found that about 12,600 people are involved in the drilling and oil field labor. By 2020, the number of jobs is expected to ring in at more than 68,000.

"And we're not talking about spin-off jobs," he said. "That's a big influx. We feel that the Eagle Ford Shale play could have a positive effect on our economy for the next 10 to 20 years, easy."

DeWitt County has also seen increases, though not to the extent Refugio County has.

The county has seen 518 approved projects since 2006 and already 25 in 2011, according to railroad commission data.

The spike in drilling activity is good for the communities that make up DeWitt County, said Randall Malik, executive director of the Cuero Development Corporation.

Sales tax revenue is up 60 percent from where it sat last year, he said, traffic in Cuero recently increased by 5,000 vehicles a day and the drilling companies have done their part to contribute to civic events.

"Both our stock show and Christmas in the Park had record years," Malik said, explaining the companies purchased children's animals at auction and the like. "These numbers have a trickle-down effect."

It's difficult to determine just how long the trend will stick around, he said, but word is such projects will continue on for a while.

"It sounds like it's just beginning," Malik said. "It certainly is exciting for us."

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