Texas, California, Oklahoma, and especially North Dakota have been grabbing headlines over the past couple of years as energy companies have been reaping the rewards of the technological innovation that has made it commercially viable to tap into the Eagle Ford and Bakken and other such gigantic shale formations, and they’re not even close to finished with expanding the boundaries of the shale boom yet.
Oil and gas companies have been steadily buying up acres of mineral rights in potential shale hot spots around the country, and it looks like the Tuscaloosa Marine shale is next on the list. It’s estimated to hold a full-on 7 billion barrels of recoverable oil, and as a couple of companies have been threshing out the situation, local economies are already starting to benefit. The Associated Press has a great rundown of the scenario:
Residents living above an oil-rich shale formation that stretches across southwest Mississippi and Louisiana have been waiting on a boom for years. A steady trickle of drilling is already boosting the rural region’s economy, and spending by two oil companies could make 2014 the year that many other locals finally cash in on the oil far beneath their feet. …
Gillsburg and surrounding Amite County lie above a prime section of the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, a geologic formation that stretches in boomerang shape across Louisiana’s midsection and into southern Mississippi. …
For the region’s economy, though, the drilling has already provided a much-needed infusion, even if it’s not an all-out boom yet.
Heavily wooded with only a handful of small towns, Amite County has relied on forestry in recent decades. But Georgia-Pacific LLC closed a plywood mill in Gloster in 2009. Combined with other business closures, Chancery Clerk Ronnie Taylor said Amite County lost as many as 850 jobs. The county’s 4,600 workers had an 8.7 percent unemployment rate in December, higher than Mississippi’s average. Here and there, pastures are reminders of the county’s fading dairy industry.
Bernell McGehee, an accountant in Liberty, said his family leased some forestland south of town to Encana for a $300-an-acre one-time payment. He stands to earn more in royalties if the land produces oil.
“Any debts we’ve had, we’ve pretty much been able to get rid of,” he said.
Read: The recession pretty much economically ravaged the area, and the energy sector is what’s helping to finally bring it back.
The region is still something of a financially risky play, with drillers trying to figure out the precise technological recipe for taking the best advantage of the Tuscaloosa Marine formation’s particular geological makeup, but the amount of oil and gas down there could very well be equal to amount in the Bakken formation that’s pulled North Dakota out of our otherwise meager economic “recovery.”
I would point out again that so much of this boom is happening on private and state lands, and not because of the Obama administration’s economic or regulatory policies, but in spite of them — and indeed, that the administration is actively preventing energy companies from bringing similarly robust economic recovery to areas that the federal government controls.