Although I don’t agree with the conclusion of this excellent article in Sunday’s Dallas Morning News – that the biggest mineral play in the U.S. has gone bust – there is a lot of good hands-on reporting by Elizabeth Souder and Marice Richtert to consider. Read it closely. The underlying theme of the piece – how thousands of landowners profited or spurned quick profits on their properties – is one that will be shared by millions of Americans for decades to come. Here’s why.
Does the idea of getting a bonus check of $27,500 per acre sound too good to be true? Not to 4,000 North Texas property owners. When Vantage Energy came calling with checkbook in hand, they cashed in. Vantage, XTO, Chesapeake, Devon – major players paid astronimical sums and agreed to royalty rates as high as 25 percent in order to lock up mineral rights in Parker, Denton, Wise, and Tarrant County, home of Fort Worth. The ever-increasing size of the Barnett eventually engulfed an estimated 5,000 square miles and included hundreds of thousands of landowners.
The most intriguing aspect to the Barnett? Geologists have known about this field for most of the 20th century. It was only recently, however, that technology enabled production companies to produce enough gas to make wells economic.
So what does this mean to landowners elsewhere? A lot. The Barnett is one of more than a dozen shales across America now being tapped. Just last week Congressman Dan Boren was telling me about the booming economy in his district, Oklahoma’s 2nd. One of the primary engines driving Eastern Oklahoma’s 3 percent unemployment is exploration and production in the Woodford Shale. In the Fall 2008 issue, my brother Steve the CFA (not to be confused with my man Joe the Plumber) pointed out that Chesapeake Energy was planning to acquire the mineral rights to 13,000 acres of Louisiana timberland from International Paper for $263 million. That would be the Haynesville Shale. In New York, it’s the Marcellus Shale. In Indiana, it’s the New Albany Shale. In Michigan, the Antrim.
One thing we’ve all learned from higher oil prices is that natural gas is going to become an increasingly important component in our energy mix. And landowners everywhere need to know what this means to them.