According to Randy Black, operations manager for the oil and gas company, Conoco runs what is probably the safest and most environmentally conscious operation in the oil patch.
Black spoke to the City Council Tuesday evening and explained what the company is doing in Beeville, how long it intends to stay here and how many employees are on the payroll in the area.
He said Conoco has had its Eagle Ford operation headquarters here for the last year.
Seventy-five or so of the 500-1,000 employees the company has in the oil and gas field north of the city work at the Conoco offices on North Washington Street.
Black said the company has two offices here and about half of the local employees are living right in Beeville.
Black said ConocoPhillips is one of the largest refiners of oil and gas products in the world, employing 29,000-30,000 individuals in 30 countries.
The company’s Eagle Ford operation encompasses 220,000 acres of leases spreading over five Texas counties.
“We have a large field presence,” Black said. Conoco is operating 16 rigs in the Eagle Ford presently and there will be a 17th rig operating by June.
Black said the company plans to have 16 active rigs working through 2012 and most of 2013.
Black said the company now has about 130 wells drilled and ready to produce in the Eagle Ford.
Conoco hopes to double that by the end of next year. Black said the company could have 1,000 wells producing in that field in five or 10 years.
“This area is not new to oil and gas development,” Black said. “But it is new to this size of activity.”
“Truly, this is a shale,” Black said of the Eagle Ford oil and gas field.
“The industry knew shale had hydrocarbons,” he said. But getting to those deposits was a challenge. “We hated shale when I first got out of college.”
In the last five or 10 years, however, with new development in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, the oil and gas industry has been able to more easily recover the deposits in shale formations around the world.
Shale formations are located all across North America, including in Canada and Mexico.
The Eagle Ford holds natural gas as well as heavy liquid hydrocarbon.
Black said Conoco is investing heavily in developing the shale formations in North America because of the better political stability.
Black also defended Conoco’s environmental record in its development of shale production.
“Hydraulic fracturing has been around since before the 1940s,” Black said. Ninety percent of the oil and gas wells developed in the United States have been fractured.
Conoco has been moving in a core of highly experienced personnel to take charge of its fracturing operations. And concern over protecting the environment tops the company’s list.
“Water is incredibly important,” Black said. Although the company now is using fresh water to fracture shale, Conoco is looking into drilling deeper for other sources of water and into recycling water used in fracturing so that it can be used again.
Conoco makes sure groundwater tables are protected by sealing drilling holes with concrete.
“We believe it’s important that we are good stewards of that,” Black told the council.
The manager said Conoco also is committed to maintain a reduced land footprint and restoration efforts are used in all its operations sites.
Although the oil and gas industry is heavily regulated, Conoco itself is even more heavily regulated.
“We’re thrilled to be a part of the community,” Black said. “We have families living here.”
Black acknowledged that Conoco is aware that the Eagle Ford activity has stressed the infrastructure in Beeville. Traffic problems, housing shortages and other situations are a problem for everyone in the area.
He said he was glad to see new motels and apartments being built. But the industry will need even more housing options in the future.
When City Council and staff members asked Black about Conoco’s commitment to financial assistance to communities, the manager assured them that the company does all it can to assist in projects.
He said the company uses a team of employees who live in the community to vet funding requests. Conoco prepares a budget for philanthropic endeavors and it tries to distribute the budgeted funds by the end of the first quarter of each year.
The money is only given to 501(c)(3), nonprofit organizations or governments, such as school districts.
Black said the final decision on which requests to fund is based on how much money a certain entity had received previously, with an emphasis on environmental education and general benefit to the community.
Councilman John Fulghum asked Black how the city could help Conoco. Black responded, saying “We have absolutely been welcomed here.”
Black said the company does have some school programs that it can offer for students here. He said council members can expect to see Conoco become even more active in the community in the years ahead.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.