I'm sorry it has taken so long for me to post an update! It may have seemed that I had fallen off the face of the earth, but no, I have been spending the last several weeks traveling the back roads of Haynesville Parishes. I rarely have cell phone reception, much less access to the internet for my computer.
I have met more wonderful people in the last few weeks than I ever imagined, due largely in part to my finally becoming familiar with my way around. I was born and raised in an incredibly small town, and after spending time in Dallas, it is more than refreshing to return to my roots. In larger cities, I hesitate to make conversation standing in line for coffee or grocery store, because people often question your motives or are in a hurry to get to their next destination and see you as an unfortunate detour. I have spent hours in diners talking to the regulars stopping in after running errands to drink coffee and shoot the bull. I've made great friends and gained the insight of retired engineers, ranchers, and others that provide a glimpse of what a better environment if the companies efficiently communicated with the communities they were investing in.
The Barnett Shale introduced me to Natural Gas Development in a more industrialized area. The impact of it's arrival was felt, as neighborhoods become saturated with landmen or 'lease acquirers' in some cases, who will send a letter or leave a business card on your doorstep if they miss you. It is easier to bypass the roadblocks of landowners associations because more often than not, the builder retained the mineral rights or the homeowners do not interact closely with one another and do not present as a united front. Rumors are still rampant, especially as word got out that $27,000 an acre was bring offered, and because most are not as familiar with the process as many in the Haynesville parishes and counties, they insisted $27,000 was the going rate. True, that may have been paid 60 miles away, but it was a friend of a friend, plus it was on the internet. Fewer large tracts of land or inherited property reduced the attachment to mineral rights. This also increases the risk of a city drilling ban(Flowermound) because voters often see the costs outweighing the benefits. Oil and Gas companies court real estate developers and airport officials hoping to get the go ahead (Chesapeake's lease bidding wars with DFW?) rather than chatting with landowners as they may do elsewhere. If they succeed in their mission of obtaining leases, they have roads can more easily handle the equipment trucks. They often surround the location with temporary walls, for privacy as well as appearance reasons. Rigs placed on locations near DFW airport had to be placed in shoveled holes to prevent their height from causing risks to air traffic. Limited undeveloped space requires the demolishment of abandoned parking lots before drilling can begin. Noise regulations in suburban areas shorten the workday, and make for a slower pace and more expensive projects.
There are pros and cons of Natural Gas Development in any community. Locals I have met the last several weeks have voiced their suggestions and concerns regarding the Haynesville Shale. Heated debates rival those pre-presidential election, and rightfully so. This is their livelihood at stake. Everyone around the world has an opinion, especially since the BP disaster, yet you rarely see interviews with those most directly affected by the industry.
Concerns regarding road conditions are usually one of the first topics brought up during these conversations. Understandably so. Driving roads frequented by Haynesville traffic are difficult to navigate, while you avoid potentially tire-popping pot holes, stay out of the way of workers on a deadline, and watch for flaggers warning you of pipeline construction. The income brought in by production has been incredibly beneficial to the parishes, as well as the people residing in their borders. Roads are often replaced, and new ones built, but until then it is increasingly difficult to make it from point A to Point B safely, much less in the time it once took. When do politics play too large a role, and when is there more input needed?
I have met some of the most knowledgeable people in recent months, and it is amazing how willing they are to help me as I try to understand the logic of drilling direction (horizontal versus vertical), rock formations (porosity), and the layout of sections in a township (1 to 36 unless it's by a river or landmark and the number can go up from there). It's obvious there is often (not always) a lack of communication between them and the professionals arriving to profit from the play. An attempt to understand the process and a passion for family, community, and values is sometimes mistaken for stubbornness. This disconnect can result in a feeling of resentment or deceit. What is a pugh clause? That may have been of little importance before, but now it is important to understand the depths you are leasing. Cotton Valley, Haynesville, and Bossier plays are at different depths, but can overlap. Unfortunately, several attorneys were given projects by these companies with their arrival and have created 'conflicts of interest'. Not in all cases, and I have met several that are able to give advice (that has been the topic of more than a few conversations on this site). There are scams out there, but that is not always the case when dealing with companies attempting to invest in the play. Gossip. Hearsay. We have all been guilty of it at one point or another. I have spoken to plenty of people that held out, even when it would have made sense otherwise, and watched the offers disappear. Family and friends regretting selling too soon or holding out too long. It is your decision, and you have to make it based on your individual situation.
I am attempting to organize my notes, and post in the most beneficial way. I will be out and about this week, but plan to address my understanding of the drilling process, as well as the interpretations of those I have met along the way. Enjoy your day!