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Texas’ shale oil boom yields rags-to-riches tales by the barrel


In the dusty heart of West Texas, rows of tall white wind turbines and rust-colored working pump jacks bob up and down along the vast rugged landscape.

It’s a visual juggernaut but make no mistake – this is shale country and in this part of the Lone Star State, legends are born and billions are made every single day.

Take Texas natives Cody Campbell and John Sellers, for example. They met in the seventh grade, played football together at Canyon High School and ended up at Texas Tech University.

INDIANAPOLIS - 2005:  Cody Campbell of the Indianapolis Colts poses for his 2005 NFL headshot at photo day in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Getty Images)

Cody Campbell had a brief stint with the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts before starting a career in the oil business  (Getty Images)

Campbell went on to the NFL, playing as an offensive guard with the Indianapolis Colts while Sellers made money in real estate.

In 2009, the two friends started Double Eagle Energy Holding, where they signed lucrative land deals on the hoods of their pickups and lived lease-to-lease.

“It was a crazy, very humble starting point for us,” Sellers said. “We were the lowest form of oil guys.”

‘It was a crazy, very humble starting point for us.’

– John Sellers, Double Eagle Energy Holding co-founder

Six years later, the one-time classmates had built their modest company into a multi-billion dollar behemoth and in 2017 sold 71,000 acres of Permian Basin rights for $2.8 billion. The deal secured both of their spots on the Richest Texans Under 40 list.

Workers hired by U.S. oil and gas company Apache Corp drill a horizontal well in the Wolfcamp Shale in west Texas’ Permian Basin near the town of Mertzon, Texas October 29, 2013. On a wall inside an old hunting lodge in west Texas that Apache Corp. uses as a field office, a board lists the winners of $10,000 prizes given to workers with big ideas to cut costs - the new way to get ahead in North America’s shale oil industry. Picture taken October 29, 2013.     REUTERS/Terry Wade  (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENERGY) - GM1E9CJ130601

Oct. 19, 2013: Apache Corp worker drills a horizontal well in the Wolfcamp Shale in west Texas’ Permian Basin.  (Reuters)

American oil legend Mark Papa helped start the U.S. shale boom in the 1990s. In the course of a decade, a $1 investment with him grew to $1,800. He tapped out when the market went bust but came out of retirement at the age of 70 when he saw opportunity in the Permian Basin. In two short years, Papa boosted the value of his new venture, Centennial Resource Development Inc., more than six-fold.

“We’ve got a history of wildcatters who came out and risked everything to try and build the industry,” Stacie Hanna, director of marketing and education at the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, told Fox News. “We have people with that same kind of outlook and energy out here now.”

‘We’ve got a history of wildcatters who came out and risked everything…’

– Stacie Hanna, director of education at Permian Basin Petroleum Museum

Not only has Texas’ role as a petroleum powerhouse created colorful Horatio Alger-esque rags-to-riches stories but it’s also netted billions of dollars and created hundreds of jobs for the state.

Despite some skeptical analysts, the shale industry in the Permian Basin – a 300-mile stretch of open land from West Texas to southeast New Mexico – isn’t showing signs of slowing down.

The prospect of striking it rich is everywhere.

Like so many of the dreamer-turned-tycoon stories the area churns out, success at Permian wasn’t a given. It was born out of grit, determination and hard work. Making it big meant going all in on an area that was a relative latecomer to the shale revolution.

texas tech campbell and sellers

Tracy Sellers, John Sellers, Tara Campbell, and Cody Campbell at a Texas Tech football game  (John Sellers )

Instead, early success stories belonged to the Barnett Shale formation in the northeastern part of the state. The area was first fracked by pioneer George Mitchell in the early 1990s.

Mitchell put the spotlight on Barnett and the Marcellus Formation in Pennsylvania, and both were largely considered “hot spots” on the shale map. Production in the Permian, by contrast, was just in its infancy.

Permian’s big break came after a handful of oilmen figured out how to crack open shale and find oil. By 2013, Permian was on the top of everyone’s list. Since then, the basin has been at the epicenter of the U.S. shale revival and has become one of the country’s most vital energy producing regions.

Advances in directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing – a method of recovering oil and gas from underground shale deposits – have enabled oil companies to dig even deeper into the ground.

It’s also helped the country wean itself from coal and has “reduced emissions dramatically along the way,” Michael E. Webber, deputy director of the Energy Institute at The University of Texas at Austin, said.

In the past five years, output from the Permian has doubled to 2.5 million barrels a day, making it among the most prolific oil and gas producing regions in the nation. The next five years could be even more profitable.

Aerial view of oil wells seen near Midland, Texas, U.S., May 2, 2017. Picture taken May 2, 2017. REUTERS/Ernest Scheyder - RC1366764970

Aerial view of oil wells seen near Midland, Texas, U.S., May 2, 2017. Picture taken May 2, 2017. REUTERS/Ernest Scheyder – RC1366764970

“Texas is far from tapped out,” Scott Tinker, director of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin, told Fox News. “Oil and natural gas are limited not so much by supply, but rather by the dynamics of demand, price, technology, public acceptance, energy alternatives at scale, and politics.”

But it isn’t always that easy. Shale has its own set of market-based problems and the industry has gone through its fair share of rough patches.

“We’re used to the ups and downs,” Hanna said. “They’re tough, man. They’re really tough. They always have been.”

Still, while other shale patches have petered out, Permian keeps on going. It’s naturally gifted with thick bands of the mudstones that are up to 15 times the diameter of similar patches across the country.

According to an October drilling productivity report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. oil output is expected to increase by 82,000 barrels per day to 6.12 million bpd.

Production at both of Texas’ massive shale oil plays – the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford – are expected to jump. The report predicts oil from Eagle Ford will increase by 2,500 bpd to 1.2 million and forecasts production in the Permian rising by 50,000 bpd to 2.7 million bpd – a new record.

A pump jack stands idle in Dewitt County, Texas January 13, 2016.

Jan. 13,2016: A pump jack in Eagle Ford.  (Reuters)

“Here we go again,” Dallas native Lisa Westin, whose family has been in the oil business for decades, told Fox News. “We’re ready for it. Whatever happens, Texas and its people are tough and we know how to handle the ups and downs.”

fox news

19 Comments on "Texas’ shale oil boom yields rags-to-riches tales by the barrel"

  1. MASTERMIND on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 8:12 am 

    The world’s largest oil trader Vitol says US oil production will peak in 2018

    The Mighty U.S. Shale Oil Industry to Lose Another $20 Billion In 2017

    MIT Technology Review: Shale Oil Will Boost U.S. Production, But It Won’t Bring Energy Independence

  2. makati1 on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 8:16 am 

    “Faux News” That says it all.

  3. dave thompson on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 9:19 am 

    How wonderful the landscape of drill pads. The happy faces at the entertainment games. Picture perfect.
    Now if we can only ignore the 10 million bbls per day imports.

  4. Anonymous on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 11:10 am 

    I wonder how many pads are old vertical wells. Obviously hz development is more efficient in terms of surface impact.

    Oh…and looks like some undeveloped land in the middle. Send in a leasing agent…

  5. Kenz300 on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 11:38 am 

    Faux Noise – where facts go to die.

  6. Apneaman on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 11:39 am 

    I think I’ll make some pancakes and pour this syrup on them.

  7. Apneaman on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 11:59 am 

    672,000 gallons of oil spill off Louisiana coast, Coast Guard says

  8. Apneaman on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 12:02 pm 

    A String Of Dangerous Accidents In Alaska Sends BP Reeling, Emails Show

    Internal emails, recordings, interviews, and other documentation obtained by BuzzFeed News show how BP Alaska executives are struggling to “reset” the company’s safety culture after five dangerous accidents this year alone.

    “At least 27 accidents happened at BP’s oil and gas operations in Alaska this year, including five that risked the lives of dozens of workers”

    The sheer incompetence of this industry is starting to match that of government.

  9. mbnewtrain on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 12:07 pm 

    Not every investment produces the “Cinderella” stories. Two years ago I invested in two oil ventures, one in Eagle Ford basin and one in east Texas. Neither wells could produce profitable oil/gas at todays prices. Lost six figure money as did dozens of others, so collectively we lost about 7 million. Downturn since 2013 has wiped out around 20 billion of investment in the oil industry. A hard lesson learned

  10. Boat on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 2:03 pm 

    dave thompson on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 9:19 am

    Now if we can only ignore the 10 million bbls per day imports.

    You mean net oil of 3.4 mbpd for the last month. BTW since 2014 the net import has been 5-6 mbpd. You know where to get that information?

  11. rockman on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 4:12 pm 

    mbnewtrain – That’s a shame. Don’t know your background but over the years I’ve had many non-oil patch folks ask me about direct investments. Always had the same answer: don’t do it. Such a complex technical evaluation and folks with decades of experience can still be wrong. It only works with some certainty if done on many wells drilled over many years. And then only if you’re very skilled.

    Otherwise it’s like playing Texas Hold’em and going all in on the first hand. Even the most successful pro players don’t win every hand. And the most successful petroleum companies drill dry holes. I once generated a very successful shallow gas exploration program: hit 23 out of 25. How excited would an investor feel watching me hit 13 in a row and then investing a big chunk in #14? How pissed off might they be if #14 was a dry hole? Which it actually was. And during the height of the shale boom and oil was $100+/bbl there were Eagle Ford wells that produced less the 10,000 bbl before being plugged and abandoned.

    And even if a well is successful a non industry investor can be cheated out of a lot of his profit by an unscrupulous operator. And there are some out there. And even for an experienced company owning a minority interest that knows the tricks can still get cheated to some degree. On of the first projects for my owner was operated by a crook. At first I was ordered of the lease by a deputy sheriff thanks to a court order. Next day I came back with my court order and deputy and ran the operator’s personnel off. And it got even nastier after that: the only time in 41 years I carried my pistol on my hip while on a lease. Like everyone else I’ve always had a weapon while in the field but in my glove box.

  12. dave thompson on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 4:37 pm 

    Boat, google US oil consumption per day. Oh never mind here; The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) includes biofuels in consumption of petroleum products. In 2016, the United States consumed a total of 7.21 billion barrels of petroleum products, an average of about 19.69 million barrels per day. EIA uses product supplied as a proxy for U.S. petroleum consumption.

  13. george on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 4:47 pm 

    There once was a man and his name was Jed …


  14. shortonoil on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 6:28 pm 

    These guys made money buying and selling leases, and mineral rights. The way all millionaires come out of any mining industry. A couple of them even got some product out of the ground.

  15. onlooker on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 7:03 pm 

    Brace for the oil, food and financial crash of 2018″ … f81f85686b

    Refers to the HSBC report on oil and a research paper.

  16. Boat on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 7:12 pm 


    Been watching ya’ll brace for years. Ran outta popcorn.

  17. onlooker on Sat, 21st Oct 2017 7:22 pm 

    Yes Boat and with each year events on the ground and “real” objective facts are becoming more menacing and indicative of a catastrophic downturn. But as Mak. says be patient and you will see. Pass the popcorn

  18. Outcast_Searcher on Sun, 22nd Oct 2017 10:47 am 

    So onlooker, if you keep preaching doom each and every year for a few more decades, you might get lucky, eventually.

    And this is worth what, exactly?

  19. Davy on Sun, 22nd Oct 2017 11:21 am 

    So Outcast Searcher, if you are habituated to a normality of the status quo each and every year for a few more decades, you might get luck and your habituation will continue. But it is also possible and more realistically it will continue until it doesn’t. At some point human linearity will likely cycle.

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