Eagle Ford spurring job boom in South Texas

No one’s calling it another Spindletop yet, but just wait.

Development of the Eagle Ford shale, a vast oil and gas region, shows promise of being the most important economic generator South Texas has ever seen, a recently released study indicates.

Since the first well was drilled in the Eagle Ford in 2008 until 2010, oil and gas drilling has directly supported about 6,800 full-time jobs in the region, paid $311 million in salaries and benefits to workers and generated almost $2.1 billion in total economic output.

When other spinoff jobs were included in the tally — everything from oil field support to the waiters serving drillers’ food – the numbers jumped to about 12,600 jobs, $512 million in salaries and $2.9 billion in economic output.

Good paying work

Drilling jobs account for about half of the jobs so far in the Eagle Ford, and the jobs pay well, starting from about $12 to $17 an hour for roustabouts (an entry-level drilling job) and $13 to $18 an hour for truck drivers.

The Eagle Ford accounts for about 6 percent of the gross regional product for the 24-county area in the study.

The numbers come from a study by the Center for Community and Business Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio, funded by America’s National Gas Alliance, which paid about $33,000. Members of the gas alliance met with the Express-News editorial board on Wednesday.

The Eagle Ford “is a very early play, so these are very conservative estimates, said Dominique Halaby, the center’s director.

The Eagle Ford shale underlies 24 Texas counties that stretch from a region northeast of San Antonio to Laredo and Webb County.

Permits soar

The center’s study noted that in 2008, the Railroad Commission had issued 33 drilling permits, but during the first 11 months of 2010, the number had zoomed to 1,018 permits.

The center’s study also looked at the broader effect of Eagle Ford development. By 2020, the Eagle Ford is expected to account – directly and indirectly – for almost $21.5 billion in economic output and support 68,000 full-time jobs in South Texas.

The estimated economic impact was based on price information from the Energy Information Agency, a part of the Energy Department, along with drilling costs and estimates of royalty and lease payments.

Welder serves on the board of ANGA. Not long ago, “Kenedy and Karnes City were near the end,” Welder said. “People who were used to no job and no chance for success now have a range of options,” Welder said. “For an able-bodied person, there’s really no reason why you can’t find a job in South Texas.”

vvaughan@express-news.net

SHOW MORE