Leader Blues

Friday, December 01, 2006

TOP STORY >>Region hoping for gas pay-off

IN SHORT: Geologist says $340 million has been spent exploring the Fayetteville Shale in White County and elsewhere.

By SARA GREENE
Leader deputy managing editor

Doug Hanson, a geologist with the Arkansas Geological Commission, told the Jacksonville Rotary Club that exploration into natural gas deposits below White County isn’t going to turn Searcy into the next Houston anytime soon.

In the last two years, companies — including Southwest Energy, Chesapeake Energy, Shell Exploration and Production, Maverick Oil and Gas and Hallwood Petroleum —have invested more than $340 million to explore the Fayetteville Shale, a natural- gas deposit between 200 and 3,000 feet below ground that stretches from Batesville to Fayetteville running under parts of White, Van Buren, Faulkner, Cleburne, Conway, Prairie, Jackson, Independence, Woodruff, Monroe, Phillips, Lee, St. Francis and Cross counties.

Short-term economic benefits are being seen from the infrastructure being created for the gas companies and the drill crews who need places to live and stores to shop at.

Construction crews are expected to make their way into the area to build a pipeline from the wellheads to transport the natural gas to refineries in other states.

Jim Haynes, president of Community Bank in Beebe, said he anticipates natural gas exploration and production will be a financial boon for the area.

“We haven’t seen any royalty income yet, but we’re excited about what it can do with the creation of new jobs. There will be jobs created to build the pipeline and good paying jobs for people wanting to work on the gas wells,” Haynes said.
This week Hanson told Jack-sonville Rotarians that more than 80 test wells have been drilled into the 350 million year old rocks that make up the Fayetteville Shale.

The test wells east of Hwy. 67/167 have not shown much promise because it seems the gas has leaked out of the shale.
Based on the interest of gas companies in the White County, the test wells to the west of Hwy. 67/167 including those around Beebe and Searcy seem to be more productive.

Buck Layne, director of the Searcy Chamber of Commerce, says several gas companies have leased office space in town and this week Union Drilling of Fort Worth, Texas, leased a 10-acre site off Mill Road in Searcy for an undisclosed amount.
“They have offices and a site to erect the drilling rigs to take out into the county,” Layne said. The facility will also repair the drilling rigs.

Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma City is building a $1.5 million regional headquarters at the intersection of Hwy. 36 and Hwy. 310 west of Searcy.

Chesapeake is also constructing several reservoirs on the property.
Natural gas drilling uses a million gallons of water to help clear mud, dirt and sand away from the hole being drilled.

Disclosure: This reporter has leased mineral rights in White County.