Permian Basin of West Texas seeing oil boom

DALLAS — The Permian Basin of West Texas is experiencing an oil boom, leading some of the region’s top oilmen to predict that Texas oil production will double within five to seven years.

Oil drillers over the last eight years have found that the dense oil rock of the basin surrounding Midland and Odessa responds well to hydraulic fracturing, releasing lush yields. Total oil production last year in Texas averaged more than 1 million barrels per day for the first time since 2001.

“Right in the basin, we could get up to 2 million barrels a day,” Jim Henry of Midland-based Henry Resources told The Dallas Morning News for an article in its Sunday’s edition.

“I’ve been totally surprised by the amount of oil we’re finding out in the shale zones,” Scott Sheffield, chairman and chief executive of Irving-based Pioneer Natural Resources Co., told the newspaper.

“We have 30 billion barrels of new oil discoveries,” said Tim Leach, chairman and CEO of Midland-based Concho Resources. “It can be hard to get your mind around that.

The cloud on the horizon is the persistent drought that has gripped the region. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” requires massive amounts of water to pump into the ground under high pressure.

Drillers also worry about the prospect of tax increases and limits placed on land use by the presence of such endangered species as the dunes sagebrush lizard.

But as long as crude oil prices remain high, around $100 per barrel, drilling will remain profitable.

Similar booms are under way in the Eagle Ford Shale of South Texas and the Bakken Shale of North Dakota and Montana. Production also is climbing rapidly in western Alberta Canada, which is now the largest source of U.S. oil imports.

“I could paint a scenario for you where we are producing 3 million more barrels per day by 2016, which would almost get us to the point where we could eliminate 60 to 70 percent of our OPEC imports,” Texas Railroad Commissioner Barry Smitherman told The News. “With that greater control over our own energy security, we could care less about what happens in the Strait of Hormuz.”

The narrow straight between the United Arab Emirates and Iran is considered strategically vulnerable to blockade by Iran’s revolutionary regime.

The United States still imports 45 percent of the 19 million barrels of petroleum that it consumes, but that is a sharp reduction, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In 2005, about two-thirds of all liquid fuels the United States consumed was imported.

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