(Nacogdoches, TX)

July 24, 2005
Drilling: New technology makes it easier to extract deposits
Author: EMILY TARAVELLA, The Daily Sentinel

Its been no secret that the rock beneath Nacogdoches County contains valuable deposits of oil and gas. The problem was getting it out of the rock, then getting a price that made it worth the effort. An increase in oil and gas prices coupled with advanced technology has renewed interest in Nacogdoches County. Wells are being drilled at a fevered pace throughout the county by exploration and production companies, big and small.

Exxon's a big one. EnerQuest is not. But it's achieving big success in Nacogdoches County.

The company's consulting geologist, Richard McDonald, seems to know not only where to drill but how to drill. Whether it's training, experience, instinct or a combination of all three, his colleagues at EnerQuest say he's good. Fellow geologist Mark Adkisson has worked all over the country, but the SFA grad said he always seems to find himself back in East Texas. Adkisson works the "completion side" as a complement to McDonald's geology and field work.

McDonald said they have learned from the disappointments of those who came before them.

"This is an old producing area," he said, of the northeast part of the county where EnerQuest is currently drilling. "The first well was drilled here in the '50s or '60s, and a lot of drilling also took place here in the '80s. The results were overall, disappointing." Tests indicated that oil and gas existed in Nacogdoches County, but the technology available 20, 30 and 40 years ago didn't consistently yield good results.

"We learned from their disappointments," McDonald said. "I'm not saying we learned from their mistakes, because they didn't do anything wrong. We've learned from their previous efforts."

Technology has come a long way in the past decade. When McDonald plants a wooden stake in the ground to mark the location for a future well, he knows that service companies now have the technology he needs to get that oil and gas to the surface. Of course, the technology comes with a hefty price tag. The "frac crews" that perform the highly specialized hydraulic fracturing of rocks a mile and a half beneath the surface of the earth are in high demand, McDonald said. The equipment and software they use costs millions. After the oil industry "bust" of the 1980s, service companies have been slow to purchase high-dollar equipment, software and technology, or to hire too many employees, he said. "Anyone who was around in the '80s learned a lot from the bust," McDonald said. "So many people were laid off. It did have a psychological impact on those who worked in the industry."

But last week, inside an air conditioned Halliburton trailer on a very promising tract of land in Garrison, it was evident that things are on the upswing. McDonald, Adkisson and three men in red Halliburton coveralls gathered around computers to monitor the "frac job" going on outside the metal door. More than a dozen trucks loaded with heavy equipment were lined up side-by-side, and, amid the roar of machinery, 20 to 25 Halliburton employees worked like ants in the blistering heat. The crew left Bossier City, La., at 3:15 a.m. to be on the job in Nacogdoches at daybreak. Finished before lunch, they headed back home. The company maintained the equipment at night, and McDonald said the crew would be at another location early the next morning. The time it takes to complete hydraulic fracturing: A few short hours. The cost of a frac job: $110,000 or more. What is it worth to Nacogdoches County? "Priceless."

© 2005 Cox Newspapers, Inc. - The Daily Sentinel
Record Number: 10265614


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