Natural gas drilling in Fort Worth area cities is back in a big way. Why now?

Natural gas drilling in Fort Worth area cities is back in a big way. Why now?
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Natural gas drilling in Fort Worth area cities is back in a big way. Why now?

It’s been more than a decade since the peak of the Barnett Shale boom in the Fort Worth area, prompting global interest in the North Texas natural gas drilling market and outrage from activists concerned about the impact of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, on air and water quality.

The boom’s legacy looms large in the minds of residents and industry analysts as French energy giant Total plans to expand its fracking operations in Tarrant County. Over the course of the summer, Total’s Fort Worth branch, TEP Barnett, received approval from the Railroad Commission of Texas to drill 26 new wells in Fort Worth, Arlington, White Settlement and North Richland Hills.

Why now? Total appears to be taking advantage of the lower costs associated with drilling during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Bruce Bullock, the director of the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University. Natural gas prices were depressed before the coronavirus crisis and have recovered at a faster rate than oil prices, driving more interest in fracking where companies already own mineral rights, Bullock said.

“You can drill and complete a well so much cheaper than you could have a year ago that the economics work right now for them to be able to do it,” Bullock said. “The legal cost is already sunk since they already own the lease holds. Given that and the fact that the forward price is so high, they can drill so deep and it doesn’t take very long to drill a well anymore, it’s relatively attractive to them right now.”

Fort Worth and North Richland Hills officials said they have not received permit requests from TEP Barnett, which will require city approval before the company can move forward. White Settlement did not respond to requests for comment, nor did a spokesperson for TEP Barnett.

Cecilia Leyba, a gas well inspector for the city of Fort Worth, said she suspects that the renewed interest in drilling could stem from natural gas companies needing to meet the terms of their lease agreements with the original mineral rights holders.

The company has hit some roadblocks in its quest to expand drilling in Tarrant County. In June, the Arlington City Council rejected TEP Barnett’s request to drill new wells at an existing site near a neighborhood and day care center, citing concerns about residents’ respiratory health.

However, with its next permit request in Arlington, TEP Barnett did not go through a council hearing process and received administrative approval to drill seven new wells at its Rocking Horse drilling site, located next to a preschool and medical offices.

Ranjana Bhandari, the director of environmental group Liveable Arlington, and fellow activists often highlight the potential detrimental effects of fracking, including the contamination of groundwater aquifers, the use of toxic chemicals and the impact of inhaling vapors stemming from drill sites.

She criticized TEP Barnett for drilling within 300 feet of the school without going through a public hearing process that would have notified more people living and working in the vicinity of the drill site.

“It all seems very problematic and very new to all of us, because this has been going on for over 12 years but it always happens following the procedure, which is to notify the neighborhood, then planning and zoning has to approve it and then the city council has to approve it,” Bhandari said. “We’ve never seen that before.”

HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF? NOT EXACTLY, EXPERTS SAY

The heightened anxiety over TEP Barnett’s drilling push recalls the history of the Barnett Shale boom in North Texas, which largely spanned Tarrant, Johnson, Wise and Denton counties. Within six months of reaching its peak in summer 2008, the boom went bust in terms of companies fighting for new leases thanks to a surplus of natural gas and the tanking of stock prices, according to Diana Hinton, a historian at the University of Texas-Permian Basin who published a 2018 book titled “Shale Boom: The Barnett Shale Play and Fort Worth.”

As natural gas companies flocked to the area in the early and mid-2000s, Fort Worth and surrounding communities struggled to develop regulations around urban drilling, which was essentially unexplored territory in the history of the Texas petroleum industry, Hinton said.

“Most city governments were torn, and this is particularly true of Fort Worth, which definitely liked the idea of all this wonderful economic development,” Hinton said. “But most of the time, development and production is out in the country and there just wasn’t an easy kind of rule book to fall back on and refer to as ‘this is what we need to do.’ It had to be figured out on a day by day basis because there was no model.”

Sharon Wilson, who worked in Fort Worth’s oil and gas industry for 12 years before buying property in rural Wise County in 1996, was on the front lines of fracking’s arrival in North Texas. Through her documentation of the natural gas drilling industry on her blog, Wilson emerged as a leading voice against fracking and now works as a senior field advocate for the environmental advocacy group Earthworks.

“It tore apart our community because the landmen came in and started offering people money to lease their minerals, but they were told they had to keep it totally secret,” Wilson said. “It pit neighbor against neighbor. … Eventually, my air turned brown and my water turned black and I didn’t feel like I could stay there any longer because I had a young son, so I moved to Denton.”

Denton became a lightning rod for the fracking debate when voters banned fracking within city limits in 2014, prompting a lengthy legal battle and a state law limiting cities’ local control on drilling. Now based in Dallas, Wilson said most Americans are still unaware of the invisible pollution generated by oil and gas production, usually in the form of methane releases that contribute to climate change.

“As the industry continues to expand, as Total is trying to do in Fort Worth and Arlington, our atmospheric methane will just go higher and higher and higher,” Wilson said. “The only way that we’re going to be able to stop the methane from oil and gas is to stop the expansion and then deal with the existing facilities and try to heavily regulate those while we transition to renewable energy.”

NATURAL GAS RESURGENCE PART OF LARGER STRATEGY

While a natural gas boom may not be returning to the Fort Worth area, Bullock said, major companies like Total, Exxon Mobil and Chevron have planned to be more focused on natural gas rather than oil and coal production. It’s hard to say whether the shift is beginning to occur or if this is a “false start,” he said.

“We’ll have to wait and see, but most of the major companies have been preparing for this,” Bullock said.

North Texas cities, which are legally obligated to respect the mineral rights of companies, are also better prepared for the influx of drilling, Hinton said. After facing complaints of intrusive drilling in neighborhoods, many communities, including Fort Worth, Arlington and North Richland Hills, updated their gas production ordinances. Now, companies must install noise barriers and follow setback limits that require gas wells to be a certain distance from protected buildings, including schools, Hinton said.

But advocates like Wilson and Bhandari say that petroleum companies are adept at avoiding enforcement of those regulations. Wilson worries that cities have lost their ability to regulate natural gas drilling and Fort Worth-area residents refuse to believe that natural gas drilling could return in full force to their communities.

“The Texas Legislature has set up a situation to make it almost impossible for cities to fight back,” Wilson said, referring to a 2015 law that stopped municipalities from regulating drilling. “The buck stops with the lawmakers. They are the ones who are letting the industry get away with this, and somebody somewhere has got to stand up to the industry and say, ‘The public is more important.’”


Read it from Star Telegram – Photo as posted on Star Telegram (Drilling rigs, like this one shown in a 2011 file photo, were a common sight in the Fort Worth area during the Barnett Shale boom of the early to mid-2000s. French energy giant Total recently received permits to drill 26 new wells in Tarrant County. DAVID KENT STAR-TELEGRAM ARCHIVES)

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Last updated: August 2019

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Any commercial distribution, publishing or exploitation of the Website, or any content, code, data or materials on the Website, is strictly prohibited unless you have received the express prior permission of Pipe Exchange or the applicable rights holder.  You may not otherwise download, display, copy, reproduce, distribute, modify, perform, transfer, create derivative works from, sell or otherwise exploit any content, code, data or materials on the Website.  If you make other use of the Website, or the content, code, data or materials thereon, except as otherwise provided above, you may violate copyright and other laws of the United States, other countries, as well as applicable state laws and may be subject to liability for such unauthorized use.  Pipe Exchange will aggressively enforce its intellectual property rights to the fullest extent of the law, including the seeking of criminal prosecution.

SECURITY

You are prohibited from violating, or attempting to violate the security of the Website. Any such violations may result in criminal and civil liabilities to you.  You warrant and agree that, while using the Website and the various services and features offered on or through the Website, you shall not: (a) impersonate any person or entity or misrepresent your affiliation with any other person or entity; (b) insert your own or a third party’s advertising, branding or other promotional content into any of the Website’s content, materials or services, or use, redistribute, republish or exploit such content or service for any further commercial or promotional purposes or take any action that would constitute or could be interpreted as an endorsement or sponsorship by Pipe Exchange of any third party site, content, information or other materials, or in any manner that would violate the terms and conditions of any such third party sites; (c) attempt to probe, scan, or test the vulnerability of any system or network; or (d) attempt to gain unauthorized access to data not intended for you and/or other computer systems through the Website.  You shall not: (i) engage in spidering, “screen scraping,” “database scraping,” harvesting of e-mail addresses, wireless addresses or other contact or personal information, or any other automatic means of accessing, logging-in or registering on the Website or for any services or features offered on or through the Website, or obtaining lists of users or obtaining or accessing other information or features on, from or through the Website or the services offered on or through the Website, including, without limitation, any information residing on any server or database connected to the Website or any services offered on or through the Website; (ii) obtain or attempt to obtain unauthorized access to computer systems, materials, information or any services made available on or through the Website through any means; (iii) use the Website or the services made available on or through the Website in any manner with the intent to interrupt, damage, disable, overburden, or impair the Website or such services, including, without limitation, sending mass unsolicited messages or “flooding,” “spamming,” or “crashing” any systems; (iv) use the Website or the Website’s services or features in violation of Pipe Exchange’s or any third party’s intellectual property or other proprietary or legal rights; or (v) use the Website or the Website’s services in violation of any applicable law.  You further agree that you may not attempt (or encourage or support anyone else’s attempt) to circumvent, reverse engineer, decrypt, or otherwise alter or interfere with the Website or the Website’s services, or any content thereof, or make unauthorized use thereof.  You agree that you will not use the Website in any manner that could damage, disable, overburden, or impair the Website or interfere with any other party’s use and enjoyment of the Website. You may not obtain or attempt to obtain any materials or information through any means not intentionally made publicly available or provided for through the Website. Pipe Exchange will investigate any alleged violations and will cooperate with law enforcement agencies in their investigations.

THIRD-PARTY CONTENT

Some of the information and material available through the Website are provided to Pipe Exchange by third parties (“Third-Party Material”). In some instances, the source of the Third-Party Material is identified. Third-Party Material is provided for your convenience only and Pipe Exchange does not endorse these materials or the parties who supply them to us. Pipe Exchange does not warrant or represent that these Third-Party Materials are current, accurate or reliable.

COPYRIGHT AGENT

We respect the intellectual property rights of others, and require that the people who use the Website do the same.  If you believe that your work has been copied in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, please forward the following information to Pipe Exchange’s Copyright Agent, designated as such pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 512(c)(2), named below:

  • Your address, telephone number, and email address;
  • A description of the copyrighted work that you claim has been infringed;
  • A description of where the alleged infringing material is located;
  • A statement by you that you have a good faith belief that the disputed use is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law;
  • An electronic or physical signature of the person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the copyright interest; and
  • A statement by you, made under penalty of perjury, that the above information in your Notice is accurate and that you are the copyright owner or authorized to act on the copyright owner’s behalf.
  • For all email submissions please include the subject line: DMCA Takedown Request.

 

Pipe Exchange has adopted a policy of terminating, in appropriate circumstances, accounts of users of the services or the Website who are deemed to have repeatedly uploaded content that infringes the intellectual property rights of others.

 

Copyright Agent:

Pipe Exchange Legal

c/o Pipe Exchange LLC

14025 West Road.
Suite #100
Houston, TX 77041

Phone: + (713) 934-9480

Email: dmca@pipexch.com

DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES

THE WEBSITE AND ITS CONTENT ARE PROVIDED ON AN “AS IS” AND “AS AVAILABLE” BASIS, WITHOUT REPRESENTATIONS OR WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND WHATSOEVER. PIPE EXCHANGE, TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW, DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES, INCLUDING THE WARRANTY OF MERCHANTABILITY, NON-INFRINGEMENT OF THIRD PARTIES RIGHTS, AND THE WARRANTY OF FITNESS FOR PARTICULAR PURPOSE. PIPE EXCHANGE MAKES NO WARRANTIES ABOUT THE ACCURACY, RELIABILITY, COMPLETENESS, OR TIMELINESS OF THE MATERIAL, SERVICES, SOFTWARE, TEXT, GRAPHICS, AND LINKS FOUND OR CONTAINED ON THE WEBSITE. PIPE EXCHANGE DOES NOT WARRANT THAT THE WEBSITE, THE CONTENT, OR ITS SERVERS ARE FREE OF VIRUSES OR OTHER HARMFUL COMPONENTS. YOU UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT YOU OBTAIN MATERIAL THROUGH THE USE OF THE WEBSITE AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION AND RISK AND THAT YOU WILL BE SOLELY RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DAMAGES TO YOUR COMPUTER SYSTEM OR LOSS OF DATA THAT RESULTS.

ALL MATERIAL CONTAINED IN THE WEBSITE IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATION ONLY, HAS NOT BEEN INDEPENDENTLY VERIFIED, HAS NOT BEEN RECOMMENDED BY ANY FEDERAL OR STATE REGULATORY AUTHORITY AND MAY CONTAIN ERRORS OR OMISSIONS OF MATERIAL INFORMATION. THE MATERIAL AND INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THE WEBSITE SHOULD NOT, THEREFORE, BE USED OR RELIED UPON FOR ANY SPECIFIC REASON OR APPLICATION WITHOUT INDEPENDENT COMPETENT PROFESSIONAL EXAMINATION AND VERIFICATION OF ITS ACCURACY, COMPLETENESS, SUITABILITY AND APPLICABILITY. ANYONE MAKING USE OF THE MATERIAL DOES SO AT HIS/HER/ITS OWN SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE RISK AND ASSUMES ANY AND ALL ACTUAL OR POTENTIAL DAMAGE OR LIABILITY RESULTING FROM SUCH USE.

LIMITATION OF LIABILITY

IN NO EVENT SHALL PIPE EXCHANGE BE LIABLE FOR ANY DAMAGES WHATSOEVER (INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES, LOST PROFITS, OR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM LOST DATA OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) RESULTING FROM THE USE OR INABILITY TO USE MATERIAL ON THE WEBSITE OR SITES LINKED TO THE WEBSITE, WHETHER BASED ON WARRANTY, CONTRACT, TORT, OR ANY OTHER LEGAL THEORY, AND WHETHER OR NOT PIPE EXCHANGE IS ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

TERMINATION

Pipe Exchange may terminate, change, suspend or discontinue any aspect of the Website or the Website’s services at any time.  Pipe Exchange may restrict, suspend or terminate your access to the Website and/or its services if we believe you are in breach of our terms and conditions or applicable law, or for any other reason without notice or liability.  Pipe Exchange maintains a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of the Website use privileges of users who are repeat infringers of intellectual property rights.

USER’S REMEDY

If you are dissatisfied with any portion of the Website or with any of these Terms of Use, your sole and exclusive remedy is to discontinue using the Website.

GOVERNING LAW AND VENUE

These Terms of Use and the relationship between you and Pipe Exchange shall be governed by the laws of the United States and the State of Florida without regard to its conflict of law provisions. You hereby irrevocably submit and consent to the personal and exclusive jurisdiction of the courts located within Miami-Dade County, Florida and agree that any cause of action that may arise under these Terms of Use and all disputes arising out of or relating to the use of the Website shall be commenced and be heard in the appropriate court in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The failure of Pipe Exchange to exercise or enforce any right or provision of these Terms of Use shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. If any provision of these Terms of Use is found by a court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, the parties nevertheless agree that the court should endeavor to give effect to the parties’ intentions as reflected in the provision, and the other provisions of these Terms of Use remain in full force and effect. 

QUESTIONS ABOUT TERMS OF USE

If you have any questions regarding these Terms of Use, please either:

Send an email to sales@pipexch.com

Write to Pipe Exchange at the following address:

14025 West Road

Suite 100

Houston, TX 77041

 

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