Its a Different Sort of Growth Today in the Eagle Ford Shale Field

$70 a barrel oil has meant a return to productivity for the Eagle Ford Shale field south and southwest of San Antonio, but this time it's a lot different than the chaotic boom time that suddenly hit the small towns in the brush country during the Eagle Ford's heyday in 2013 and 2013, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

"The city managers, the mayors, the council members, etc, are happy to see the activity, but are also happy to see it at a more sustainable, manageable level," said economist Tom Tunstall, who studies the Eagle Ford at the Institute for Economic Devlopment at UTSA.

The Eagle Ford's first growth spurt in 2012 and 2013 was marked by much chaos, including the development of 'man camps' to house the oilfield workers, a growth in bars and sexually oriented businesses to serve them, with much of the growth occurring in small communities which have lived for generations by the steady rhythm of the cattle and cotton markets  The dealt with main streets being tied up by traffic, and oil tankers smashing up farm to market roads that have never seen anything but tractors and cattle trucks.

Tunstall says several things are different this time.First of all, he says automation and the age of robotics has come to the Eagle Ford, meaning fewer of the low skilled oilfield jobs that created much of that chaos.

"There is a lot more efficiency in the oilfield with regard to the use of technology and computers and automation than there was three or four years ago," he said.

Tunstall says that means while good jobs have returned to the Eagle Ford, the play is more productive today with about half the number of workers, maybe fewer than half, than crowded the Brush Country in 2012-2014.  Many working wells are operated remotely from San Antonio or Houston, with no workers at all to mind them.

Tunstall says that has also helped the drillers and midstream oil companies to be profitable, despite falls in the price of oil.

Tunstall says the other reason we don't see the massive growth in the Eagle Ford that we saw last time oil prices were high is because of that volatility.  Banks and board rooms got soaked for putting all of their chips in on the Eagle Ford in 2012, and many companies faced bankruptcy.

The investment today is a lot more cautious, which means much more measured growth.

"The activity has increased and hopefully we won't get any oil price shocks that can disrupt things," he said.

What brought production to a grinding halt in late 2014 was the collapse of global oil prices, with prices dropping into the upper 20s.

But Tunstall says a sharp rise in world oil prices, perhaps occasioned by embargos on Iranian production, a Middle Eastern war, or continued concern over tariffs, would also have a negative effect on the Eagle Ford.

But for now, its steady as she goes, and if oil prices can remain calm, that's where the people who call the Eagle Ford home would like it to stay.

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