Natural gas drilling in the Barnett Shale remains as controversial as ever, but a new study says it is a huge economic boon to North Texas.
The Barnett is a natural gas deposit beneath 24 counties ranging from the Red River to south of the Metroplex. In the study "Decade of Drilling" assembled by Ray Perryman of the Waco-based Perryman Group, the Barnett has added a little more than 100,000 jobs since drilling kicked off in 2001.
"These numbers are very impressive," Perryman told the Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday.
The study was commissioned by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
According to Perryman's report, the Barnett has added to $65.4 billion to the regional economy and $80.7 billion for the state in the decade. The Barnett now contributes 8.5 percent to the regional economy.
"And when you think it was very close to zero 10 years ago, and when you think how big and populous and significant this economy is, that's real a remarkable number," Perryman said.
But the jobs number is down from its peak in 2008, when the Barnett was responsible for about 120,000 jobs. Perryman said it's a part of the energy industry's fluctuation.
"There tends to be peaks and valleys, and the next peak will probably be larger," Perryman said. "The next peak will probably involve new technologies that allow you to get more of the gas."
But not everyone agrees with Perryman's numbers.
Deborah Rogers, an advocate for responsible drilling who has looked extensively at Barnett Shale economics, said she doesn't believe gas drilling contributes more than 2 or 3 percent of the region's economy.
"If it (the gas drilling industry) disappears, I don't think the impact would be that drastic to our local economy," she said.
Rogers said she believes the region's natural gas peak was in 2007 and 2008. With some companies selling off and leaving in the last year, the Barnett has seen better days, she said.
She said people should read Perryman's report carefully.
"The underlying assumptions should be very critically scrutinized," Rogers said.
Those who outright oppose gas drilling said that no matter how many jobs the industry creates, public safety should be put first.
Fort Worth Chamber President and CEO Bill Thornton said there have been times when the industry could have done a better job informing the public, but that it continues to work at it and improve.
Controversy over drilling has not affected the industry. Perryman said resistance to such drilling can be expected.
"If you go to an area where they never had it before and discover it, and a town springs up, everybody loves it; it's the economic base of the area," Perryman said. "When the town is already developed and it's something people are not accustomed to, then I think there is a little bit of an education process that needs to take place. I think a lot of that has happened, but a lot more needs to take place."