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Got Cline Shale shock? Public hearing to help

March 28, 2013

The Cline Shale formation.

It's certainly on the tip of every tongue in the West Texas area, as local officials and residents continue to play up or down the expected effects of what the U.S. Geological Survey is saying could be largest oil-related discovery in the Permian Basin in the last 50 years.

The shale formation — which includes organic-rich shale, with a total organic content (TOC) estimated at 1 percent to 8 percent, according to experts — sits beneath Fisher, Nolan, Sterling, Coke, Glasscock, Tom Green, Howard, Mitchell, Borden and Scurry counties. According to geologists, the formation runs about 140 miles north to south and about 70 miles wide through Howard, Glasscock, Reagan and Sterling counties.

As oil companies scurry to tap into the formation, the impact of their operations — which will likely include fractured vertical wells expected to consume millions of gallons of water — is something local city and county governments are trying to process, according to Terry Wegman, executive director of the Big Spring Economic Development Corporation.

“It's certainly something everyone has been talking about. However, it can be really tough for officials and residents to get real information on what the discovery could and will mean for the Howard County area,” Wegman said.

Enter the Eagle Ford Consortium, a group made up of officials and business owners living in the 20-county, South Texas area where the Eagle Ford Shale formation is currently being cultivated.

“Most everyone has heard of the current oil and gas boom going on in North Dakota with the Bakken Shale,” Wegman said. “That boom is approximately five years ahead of the Cline Shale discovery. The Eagle Ford Shale formation is about two years ahead of where we are.

“The Eagle Ford Consortium was started to help foster lines of communication between the oil companies in the area and the government bodies, such as cities, counties and school districts. They also delve into the effects the discovery has had on the local cities and counties, which is very valuable information for us as we try to figure out what to expect.”

Members of the consortium will be in Big Spring at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 4, at the Dora Roberts Community Center for a presentation on what effects counties can expect from the Cline Shale exploration, according to Wegman.

“We'll have a presentation regarding the basics of the Cline Shale formation, which will delve into what it is and where it's located,” Wegman said. “We'll also talk about its potential in comparison to other oil plays around the country and what's currently planned to develop the play, including what types of businesses will move into our communities to support that development.

“Following that presentation, Jeff Labenz-Hough, an architect and one of the leaders of the Eagle Ford Consortium, will talk about the opportunities and challenges associated with the rapid development of a major oil play to our community and region.”

Following Labenz-Hough's presentation, consortium members Paula Sydel and Jimmie Lopez will talk about the lessons the small businesses and cities have learned through the Eagle Ford Shale exploration, according to Wegman.

“Right now, most people in the Permian Basin are wondering how the Cline Shale will affect them and their cities,” Wegman said. “By looking at what the Eagle Ford Consortium has experienced and gone through, we can try to get an idea of what's to come. It can also help us figure out what we can be doing to ready ourselves for it in the meantime.”

Early estimates for the Cline Shale formation — based on Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy’s exploration in the area — put the estimated recoverable reserves at 30 billion barrels of oil. By comparison, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates the Eagle Ford holds up to 7 billion to 10 billion in recoverable reserves, while the Bakken Shale could hold as much as 4.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

For more information on the meeting, contact Wegman at 432-264-6032.

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