BRYAN A relatively new kind of drilling is spelling an oil boom for parts of the Brazos Valley.
Companies are using what's called "horizontal drilling" to reach oil-rich shale.
The latest discoveries in our area are an extension of the Eagle Ford discoveries in South Texas.
Drilling rigs are sprouting up across a number of local counties, and the windfall has spread from oil companies and landowners, to counties and business owners.
The sun settling behind an oil drilling rig just west of Bryan doesn't mean the "roughnecks and "roustabouts" are done for the day.
This one, located at Texas A&M's Riverside Campus, along with dozens of other new derricks across the Brazos Valley are 24/7 drilling operations in a quest for black gold.
"It'll be good for everybody that has a hand in it, and if you don't have a hand in it, you better get it while the gittin's good."
25-year-old Tanner Key grew up in Caldwell and is reaping the benefits of this oil boom as a supplier of living quarters for oil field workers at rig sites.
Tanner says, "Every day we're getting more phone calls every day for more and more of our houses. Some days we do good and other days we just can't get there fast enough."
Numerous oil companies are now setting up shop after a drilling method proved successful in South Texas shale and is now pulling oil out of an extension of the Eagle Ford shale, referred to as the Eaglebine here in the Brazos Valley.
Halcon Resources out of Houston has 4 drilling rigs right now in the Bryan-College Station area, this one drilling 75-hundred to 9-thousand feet down, and then 7-to-9 thousand feet horizontal.
Nick Koch is Vice President of Operations for Halcon.
"Somebody finally stepped out and really took a step and drilled one of these horizontal wells in the Eagle Ford Shale in Burleson and Brazos counties. That's what has really kicked off this trend."
So what kind of investment is required for a well in this relatively new area? Well a typical drilling operation like this one could run anywhere from $6-to-$9 million dollars.
But the return could easily be four times that with oil at 100 dollars a barrel and half a million barrels and more expected over the lifetime of some wells. Halcon expects to spend $400 million dollars on oil exploration and production in this area next year.
And local counties like Burleson, Madison, Walker, Grimes, Leon, and Brazos are seeing a windfall from the oil discoveries.
Mark Price is the Chief Property Appraiser for the Brazos Central Appraisal District.
"The county has probably gone from, back in 2008, about $1.3 million dollars generated from mineral values, and 2013, that number was about $2.3 million, so it has increased quite a bit."
That's money that can pay for infrastructure improvements, and build roads and utilities. And don't forget, oilfield workers stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants.
But there are downsides, too, and that includes big oil exploration trucks tearing up county roads, and that means counties coming up with repair money.
Still, for those like Tanner Key in Caldwell, that black gold translates into green for his salary.
"On a bad year, anywhere from 50-to-60. On good years I've made all the way up to $150-thousand dollars, so, yeah, it's pretty good, I'd say."