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Won't You be my Neighbor?

Are the benifits of drilling worth living next to a drilling rig?

by Marc Airhart, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin

"I've worked in Mississippi and Montana and all over Texas and some in the Middle East," says Larry Brogdon, partner and chief geologist for Four Sevens Oil Company. "I never dreamed that the best gas play I'd get into was here in Fort Worth, right under my feet."

To get the gas, operators are rushing to find suitable surface locations for drilling rigs, or "pad sites." Thanks to horizontal drilling, pad sites can be almost anywhere including undeveloped areas near creeks, floodplains surrounding rivers, pastures, industrial corridors, and railroad and utility rights of way. From these spots, operators can drill horizontally underneath otherwise impractical areas such as subdivisions and business parks.

Brogdon, who graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 1974 with a bachelor's degree in geosciences, has had to become something of a diplomat.

"In this play, in the urban part, one of the most important things is the political aspect of what you're doing," he says. "I spent untold hours meeting with city councils and home owner associations, educating them about what we were doing and how we did it. Because most people had no clue. They were amazed how we could drill horizontal wells and what we could do. The more understanding they are of what we are doing, the easier they are to work with."

Brogdon says it's important to tell the land owners the truth:

"You say that no one is going to get rich. It is a commodity and the price goes up and down. We tell them that there's going to be a well, but we don't know how good the well is going to be. We tell them it's like getting an annuity-money that's coming to their mailbox that they never expected."

Some residents, according to Brogdon, get $50 a month in the mail, while others get hundreds. He says overall, about 95 percent of the landowners he approaches eventually sign on to lease their mineral rights.

"Once you start getting an income stream for citizens, you turn adversaries into advocates," says Brogdon.

Of course, that only benefits those homeowners who actually own their mineral rights. Many in the Fort Worth area do not.

Despite the diplomatic efforts of Brogdon and others, some local residents are not happy about all the urban drilling. They complain about the noise and appearance of drilling machinery, the possible decline in real estate values, and the potential for accidents close to homes, schools and businesses.

According to Brogdon, energy companies are using new technologies to make drilling quieter and they are landscaping around some drilling sites.

"All of this is something that operators are not used to and are learning to do," says Brogdon. "They're wiling to do it because the gas is there. If you're willing to do it, you get the prize by getting the gas."

For more information about the Jackson School contact J.B. Bird at, 512-232-9623 - or visit their website.

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“I’ve worked in Mississippi and Montana and all over Texas and some in the Middle East,” says Larry Brogdon. “I never dreamed that the best gas play I’d get into was here in Fort Worth, right under my feet.”

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