And then there was one.
In October 2008, there were about 200 drilling rigs searching primarily for natural gas in the Barnett Shale. Everywhere you turned, someone was poking a hole in the ground. Money, as well as gas, was flowing.
But by last week, there was only one rig reportedly working in the Barnett. The derrick in an industrial area along Loop 820 in east Fort Worth almost seemed to be hiding behind its tan sound barrier.
While three additional rigs were brought in this week, the fact you can count the number of area rigs on one hand is a sign of how things have changed in the once highflying Barnett, the 5,000-acre laboratory for shale exploration that ignited a domestic energy revolution.
Plummeting oil and gas prices, along with the seductive lure of bigger payouts in other parts of Texas and across the country, have brought exploration in North Texas nearly to a halt.
“That is just extraordinary, that is almost unbelievable! I would say that is bordering on shocking, yes,” said Karr Ingham, an economist for the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, when told that for one week there was just one rig operating in the Barnett.
Will Brackett, managing editor of the Powell Shale Digest in Fort Worth, could hardly believe his eyes when the weekly report arrived from RigData, a company that tracks activity in the Barnett. And he already knew that there had been no new drilling permits issued during the previous two weeks.
“When I got RigData’s email last Friday and opened their PDF, I was taken aback and replied to them with the message of ‘One! All I can say is Wow!’ RigData replied that the number was indeed correct and that it had taken them aback a bit too,” Brackett said.
Dave Pursell, managing director of Tudor Pickering Holt & Co., an energy investment banking firm in Houston, is actually surprised it didn’t happen sooner. He said that while the Barnett Shale used to be the place to be, that’s simply not the case anymore.
Like in real estate, Pursell said “Good ZIP codes can change and the Barnett Shale was the desirable ZIP code. Now it is not.”