Sleepy little towns in counties that were rarely spoken of are now the focus of national news stories.
Pipelines are coming; lodging is appearing, and traffic is unavoidable.
According to the latest economic impact report released by the Institute for Economic Development at the University of Texas at San Antonio, all of the 20 counties looked at have experienced changes.
One of the changes that is clearly visible is the landscape. It is dotted with rigs, flares and pipelines. Pipelines after pipelines are crossing the rural ranches, county roads and through the towns of South Texas.
The pipelines are needed to transport the product from wellheads to some sort of processing facility.
The pipelines range in size from 6-inch gathering lines to larger diameter transport lines. Hundreds of miles of pipe were laid in the ground last year, and more is planned for this year.
“In the Eagle Ford, the network of pipelines planned and under construction has yet to reach full capacity needed to keep up with the production,” according to the report.
Even with all the pipeline or infrastructure going in the ground, it is not enough to keep up with production rates.
“This has resulted in increased use of rail and truck to haul crude sourced in the Eagle Ford while midstream companies continue to work to provide the Eagle Ford Shale with a much needed network of pipelines and facilities,” the report said.
The trucks being heavily relied upon to move product from the well sites to a processing destination is another visible change in South Texas counties. They are also being used to haul water, used for fracking, to well sites.
“Each new well requires nearly 1,200 truckload deliveries, the equivalent of 8 million cars,” the report states.
So, not only is there more traffic on the roads than ever before, there is also tremendous amounts of road damage with no plan how to pay to fix it.
“The Texas Department of Transportation has not fully calculated the potential long-term road maintenance cost associated with drilling in the Eagle Ford, but early estimates indicate that roadways presently require roughly $2 billion in total maintenance, $1 billion for damage done to state highways and $1 billion for damage done to municipal and county roads.”
A plan has not been set in motion as to how to actually go about repairing these roads, but several counties have agreements in place with companies to pay a road fee for each well drilled. These fees do not begin to cover the amount of damage that has been done to roads and they have only been put in place in a few counties by their county government.
There are also several legislative efforts in place to try and get some tax money for road repairs. One such attempt is asking that severance tax come back to counties affected by the Eagle Ford.
Railroad lines, which can be used not only to get trucks off the road but also to reduce the cost of transport, are coming back into popularity.
The report states that Union Pacific has seen an increase in rail cars used since 2009. The actual percentage of increase varies by product hauled, but cars hauling road, gravel and other such materials has increased by 37 percent alone, with the biggest increase being cars that haul petroleum products with a 56 percent surge.
The resurgence of activity has caused once closed hubs and industrial rail yards to reopen and brand new ones to be built. The latest to open will be the Live Oak Rail yard that will open later in 2013.
The buzz of activity in and around the 14 counties has brought with it a housing shortage. Towns that have not seen new construction in years are seeing more than they probably ever thought imaginable.
Three motels and one new apartment complex have come to Live Oak County in the past year and more is still being built. Other cities are seeing similar construction.
Bee County has a new apartment complex, new condos and two new motels.
Karnes also has seen several apartment complexes and motels come into town.
The tiny town of Tilden has yet to receive a motel or apartment complex, but has gotten two stoplights and a new convenience store.
Then there are the RV parks which seem to pop up almost overnight. They appear in all of the 14 primary counties and surrounding counties.
The signs of growth and impact of the Eagle Ford are obvious, and the effects don’t seem to be waning yet.