Urban drilling arrives in Shreveport

Published: Feb. 24, 2009 at 5:26 AM CST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2009 at 6:34 PM CST
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SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Since it's discovery back in April of 2008, the Haynesville Shale has already had a massive impact on the ArklaTex, bringing in millions of dollars in lease money and jobs for all the drilling.  Now, the nation's hottest natural gas play has hit another milestone: the first urban drilling rig will soon appear within Shreveport city limits.

Site work began on Friday with crews clearing out what was once an open field behind Hamel's park between Clyde Fant and 70th Street. Joan Dunlap, Petrohawk's Vice President of Investor Relations, says an intitial rig is expected to arrive sometime this week. It will be a smaller rig, at about 100 feet in height. Unlike the taller, more powerful rigs used to drill horizontally in to the shale formation, this rig will be used to drill a "test" well - drilling 11,000 feet straight down. That's expected to take about a month. "We'll go down and look at the thickness of the rock we'll test the rock quality, we'll do a lot of science on what we find down there. We'll prepare it for future production and really just take a look at what's down there."

While being the first to drill a well within Shreveport's city limits is notable, the company's motivation is apparently more practical: "For the most part, the vast majority of our acreage is in rural areas so to be first in the urban areas is coincidental," explains Dunlap. "We are satisfying the terms of the lease to be here. But the vast majority of what we do will not be inside city limits." Dunlap declined to discuss the details of the lease with the Hamel's, which encompasses about a 1,000 acres.

The Houston-based company owns leasehold interests in approximately 300,000 net acres in the Haynesville Shale. So far, they have drilled nearly 20 wells, mostly in the more rural areas of Bossier, DeSoto, Red River and Caddo parishes - with impressive results. "Some of the best wells in North America have been the Haynesville and arguably in the world," says Dunlap, who was in Shreveport Monday to meet with Shreveport City leaders, "We are working with them, it's important for them to know that urban drilling IS different and we're complying with their issues or concerns and making sure that we do things like the sound abatement system," Dunlap says.  They're also working to make sure that the traffic is disrupted as little as possible, "Obviously, you have construction-type trucks coming in and out. We want to make sure that we're not coming in and out at the wrong hours of the day."  On Monday, two Shreveport Police officers were on hand outside the entrance to the Hamel property on 70th street, helping control traffic as heavy trucks loaded with gravel came and went steadily.

They also must comply with load restrictions on local highways, including Clyde Fant Parkway. Sound barriers will also be going up this week around the site, similar to ones that are being used in Fort Worth to block noise from the drilling operations for neighbors nearby. Local city and parish leaders are already looking to Fort Worth for that city's experience with urban drilling in the Barnett Shale. Shreveport Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover and other city leaders traveled there in June for a look at the impact, the ordinances leaders there have come up with, and how they're panning out.  Many of Fort Worth's smaller neighbors have already taken the ordinances and incorporated them locally.

Now new local laws governing oil and gas drilling are taking shape in Caddo and Bossier Parishes, where officials are working on proposals aimed at giving them a say in everything from traffic to dust control to the use of local water supplies in the drilling process. The Louisiana Department of Natural Resources and the Office of Conservation already regulates oil and gas drilling in the state. Petrohawk's first urban well in Shreveport could serve as a working example for those looking to see just what they might soon find themselves dealing with, "and maybe it's great to get a well in here and for citizens to really see what happens when a well is drilled as ordinances are being debated," says Dunlap.

But don't expect to be able to get too close. For safety reasons,

says the site is already fenced and will have 24-hour security.

Anyone with questions about the company or about the Hamel well can call

, Petrohawk's Vice President of Investor Relations, at (832) 204-2737.