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Eagle Ford Shale

Tracking earthquakes

It’s a thing.

Texas, home to two of the nation’s busiest oilfields, now has a new way for the public to track in real time how many earthquakes are rattling the Lone Star State since the expanded use of new drilling techniques.

TexNet, which the University of Texas said is the nation’s most advanced state-run seismic monitoring system, includes 22 permanent monitoring stations and another 40 that are portable. The system was formed in 2015 thanks to $4.47 million in state funding.

The Permian Basin in west Texas and New Mexico and the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas continue to see some of the nation’s strongest drilling activity. Those regions, along with the Dallas-Fort Worth area, have all seen an increase in earthquakes, according to a statement earlier this month from the University of Texas at Austin’s Bureau of Economic Geology.

“Small earthquake events have become more common in Texas recently,” Scott Tinker, director of the bureau, said in the statement. “We are now positioned to learn more about them and, hopefully, to understand how to mitigate their impacts in the future.”

The UT Bureau of Economic Geology press release about this is here, and the official TexNet webpage, at which you can get all the data, is here. It would be nice to live in a world where this wasn’t needed, but it is so you may as well be aware of it. Texas Monthly has more.

David Porter not running for re-election to RRC

Another open seat.

David Porter

Texas Railroad Commission Chairman David Porter will not be running for re-election after all.

Thursday’s surprise announcement from Porter, who was first elected in 2010, unleashed a flood of interest from Republicans pondering bids for his seat.

Former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, state Rep. Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, and former state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center, all confirmed they are weighing their options. And rumors were swirling around Austin that others might jump in.

[…]

Porter, who formerly ran a Midland accounting firm that catered to oil and gas companies, was elected to the three-member commission in 2010. And he took over as chairman in June.

At the agency (which also regulates mining, pipeline safety and natural gas utilities, but not railroads), Porter launched the Eagle Ford Shale Task Force, a collection of public officials, industry leaders, landowners and environmentalists who discussed issues surrounding oil and gas development in Texas’ drilling country. He also pushed Texas to find new uses for natural gas — particularly as a fuel for automobiles.

Last year, as Denton was preparing to vote on a hydraulic fracturing ban that the Legislature has since outlawed, Porter drew mocking from activists after he and another commissioner claimed — without evidence — that Russians were trying to shape the anti-fracking message in the North Texas town.

In recent weeks, Porter appeared to be gearing up for a major primary battle, sending out press releases blasting “radical environmentalist ideology” related to climate change and speaking of terror threats to power plants and pipelines posed by The Islamic State, or ISIS.

Porter is kind of an accidental Commissioner – he came out of nowhere to knock off then-Commissioner Victor Carrillo in the 2010 GOP primary, which no one saw coming. No great loss when he leaves, though as always the next person in line could be worse. Patterson or Keffer would be okay, the rest probably not. I figure this nomination will be decided in the runoff. It would of course be much better to have a good Democrat in the race, and as of Sunday, we have one:

Former state Rep. Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat, said Sunday that he has filed to run for a seat on the Texas Railroad Commission, the state agency that regulates oil and gas development.

“I think it’s really important that we have a progressive voice in this Railroad Commission race, and I think it’s very important we end one party rule in this state,” Burnam said.

Burnam represented House District 90 beginning in 1997; he ran for reelection in 2014 but was defeated in the Democratic primary by the current occupant of the seat, state Rep. Ramon Romero, D-Fort Worth.

Burnam would certainly be a fresh voice on the RRC, which isn’t used to having non-industry shills. He’s clearly a longshot to win, but given how crazy things are in the GOP Presidential primary, who knows what could happen. This is the only non-judicial statewide office on the ballot, and according to the Star-Telegram, Burnam will face 2014 Senate candidate Grady Yarbrough in the primary. We know what kind of random results we can get in these low-profile races, so I hope Burnam can raise a few bucks and get his name out. FuelFix has more.

The Eagle Ford Shale UFO

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a UFO!

Strange things are afoot in the South Texas oil patch and in the sky above. In a region that’s seen its tax rolls and traffic problems swell from the scores of new residents, could extraterrestrials be the next wave?

Roughnecks working at a fracturing well in the Eagle Ford Shale drilling region say they saw unidentified lights in the night sky on consecutive days in October and captured blurry video of at least one of them.

Three months earlier, a security camera captured a blurry, black-and-white image of what appears to be a flying saucer hovering ominously at another well site.

So far, no little green men have applied for a truck-driving job, but in a region desperate for more workers, they may not get turned down if they did.

Space alien visitation, or at least claims of it, adds a new dimension to the social upheaval that’s engulfed La Salle County.

I’m not sure why this is just being reported now, but I suppose it’s as good a hook for a story about the boom times now going on in South Texas as anything else. It also might be a reason for the Obama administration to rethink its position on blowing up planets.

The cellphone video, taken by worker Xavier Garza, shows a reddish-orange orb in the northern sky. Roughnecks can be heard off-camera cursing — as they are wont to do — in amazement.

Witnesses say the camera didn’t pick up a dozen more lights that appeared and reappeared several times, typically hovering in formation. It happened two nights in a row.

And last week, a photo surfaced on the website of the Mutual UFO (Unidentified Flying Object) Network, a volunteer group that investigates UFO claims, purportedly taken at a well site in the same stretch of the Eagle Ford.

Allegedly taken from a security camera, it appears to show a large saucer-like object, with an array of four lights, hovering over the caliche pad of a La Salle County well site. Other odd orbs can be seen in the background.

That photo, with a July 5 time stamp, already has passed two authenticity tests, says Charles Stansburge, a veteran MUFON investigator.

“If it’s a prank,” Stansburge said, “someone spent a lot of money to stage it. It’s not a doctored photo. It’s a 60-foot-diameter saucer that’s hovering.”

The video in question is supposedly on YouTube, but I couldn’t find it. Clearly, the conspiracy is far more extensive than even I could have imagined. I also couldn’t find the photo on MUFON, but that may just be the result of crappy site design. I’m sure the photo that accompanied this story, embedded above, is the same thing. I like a good UFO story as much as the next person, but why all the fuss about Eagle Ford when there’s been a UFO elsewhere in Texas for years?

I don’t think there’s any immigration reform proposal comprehensive enough to cope with that.

Cutting spending is always good for job creation

It must be true.

Eagle Ford Shale

A study by the University of Texas at San Antonio estimated that 20 counties in the Eagle Ford Shale supported 47,097 full-time jobs in 2011, a number that’s expected to grow to 116,972 full-time jobs by 2021.

For now, many of the jobs in demand are for truckers. And a pay range of $25,000 to $80,000 a year is attracting many applicants, according to Workforce Solutions Alamo officials. But even solid job applicants are being stymied by the licensing system, panelists said.

The whole process of getting the commercial driver’s license, or CDL, is backed up, said [Leodoro] Martinez, who also is chairman of the Eagle Ford Consortium.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is responsible for handling commercial driver’s license applications.

DPS spokesman Tom Vinger said that DPS “is addressing the increased demand for CDLs with our existing resources, and our examiners are processing them as quickly as possible.”

The department is expected to continue having to make do with existing resources. Rep. Rafael Anchía, D-Dallas, said that because of budget cuts, he isn’t hopeful that the Legislature will be able to increase funding to help expedite applications.

So, were it not for the budget cuts last year, these applicants would have an easier time filling these much-needed jobs, thus making life better for them and making the economy better for all of us. And even with sales tax revenues up and a cash balance of over $5 billion, the odds of these cuts being reversed are slim, partly because the last Lege deferred a huge amount of obligations to this biennium, partly because it’ll cost more money just to keep up with growth, and partly because our government leadership has its head up its posterior. Sometimes, there just isn’t enough magic in the free market to overcome determined shortsightedness.