Energy From Shale: Arkansas

Dawn at a Southwestern Energy Drilling Rig

Jamie Gates, senior vice president Conway, Ark. Chamber of Commerce

“A lot of this activity is taking place in the rural part of our state where maybe there were struggling family farms or land that didn’t make a whole lot of economic sense to keep in active agriculture. What natural gas does, even at low prices, is give those families an opportunity, you know, to do what they have been doing for generations.”

Charles Hall, dairy farmer & landowner, Damascus, Ark.

Charles has several natural gas wells on his property. He recently used income from gas royalty payments to travel to Africa to drill water wells for orphanages.“The jobs, the local economy, the people that’s getting to work, they’re not having that everywhere like they’re right here in this area, right now. If you want to work, there are jobs. You don’t have to be able to drill a well. You can lay pipeline or stand up a fence. There are so many jobs because of gas development.”

Nancy Showalter, pharmacist and owner of Stott’s Drug Co., Searcy, Ark.

Nancy’s grandfather started Stott’s in 1927. “When other economies have gone down, Searcy’s didn’t. We have been blessed with a good economy.”

Alex Behel (left) and Grant Pryor (right), bankers at First Security Bank, Searcy, Ark.

“Folks thought the lease arrangement was a nice check and then they started coming in with five-, six-figure royalty checks that might be equal to a year of hard work.” – Alex Behel

“Overall, it’s not just landowners, it’s everybody – mom-and-pop stores and so on have benefited from the play. Nationally, the economy was hurting, but here in Searcy and other places with development, we were sheltered.” – Grant Pryor

Bob and Kendra Covert, owners of The Toy Box, Searcy, Ark.

“When 9/11 happened, retail took a dive. But when the gas came in 2005 or 2006, we saw a steady pick up in business.” – Bob Covert

Robert French, owner of Central Arkansas Professional Surveying, Conway, Ark.

“They came in at a great time. I don’t know what Faulkner County would have been without gas development. We didn’t feel the recession. It tripled our accounts receivable. I would hate to think what it would have been like around here without it.”

Toni Burrows (seated) and Liz Farris (standing), owners of the Hole in the Wall Café, Conway, Ark.

“I opened this restaurant when the economy was really, really low and everyone is going, ‘you’ve lost your mind.’ And it has been a success since the beginning and I would say that, you know, the energy move has been a big part of it.” – Toni Burrows

Mural of Conway, Ark., painted by Sydney Rasch, Kit Landwehr and the Hendrix College Art Club, Conway, Ark.

“The gas income is helping to make getting by, or retirement, a little easier … it’s what makes retirement possible in many cases. The entire community, including the people who did not have any property or own their own mineral rights, have benefited from the Fayetteville Shale gas play and from the companies who have located here.” – Linda Linn, co-owner of Linn’s Auto & Equipment Sales, Conway, Ark.

Linda and Danny Linn, owners of Linn’s Auto & Equipment Sales, Conway, Ark.

“We just recently opened three new businesses…We would not have dreamed of opening these businesses if our economy had not been as good as it is and Southwestern Energy, and other companies, play a big part in that and we appreciate them for being here.” – Linda Linn

Charles Gangruff, fire chief of the St. Vincent Volunteer Fire Department, St. Vincent , Ark.

“I’m a very strong proponent of natural gas. [Thanks to energy development,] we have been able to purchase more vehicles. We’ve been able to, you know, improve the firefighters’ safety by purchasing more turnout gear and things that firefighters need.”

Curt Hippensteel, petroleum technology instructor, University of Arkansas Community College Morrilton, Morrilton, Ark.

“The oil and gas companies have come into the area and been very good supporters of the community. And I think if you ask people in the communities where they operate, they would tell you that they’re good stewards of the resources and that they have been a positive for the communities as far as jobs and other development.”

A late afternoon sky above the training drilling rig at the University of Arkansas Community College Morrilton. Students receive hands-on experience in the program and are highly sought after by local energy companies. “The technicians we train, they will have an associate degree when they complete the program. It’s an associate in applied science. So, it’s applied technology so that they can go to work immediately.” – Curt Hippensteel

Cheryl Wade, measurement tech, Southwestern Energy and petroleum technology adjunct instructor, University of Arkansas Community College Morrilton, Morrilton, Ark.

After losing her job with the airline industry, Cheryl became the first female graduate of the petroleum technology program. She then came back to the school as an adjunct instructor. “Energy development changed my life and a lot of other people’s lives too. I’m so glad it came. I’m so glad that I took the step to come to this program.”

Darrel Schembra, rig manager, Desoto Drilling Inc., Greenbrier, Ark.

“I got affected by Hurricane Katrina and moved to Arkansas in 2006 where I pursued on with [an] oilfield career and got hired on with Desoto Drilling…Since I’ve been here, I’ve noticed a lot of businesses being built, a lot of economic growth in the area, a lot of local guys getting jobs.”

Hesston Kirkes, derrick hand, Desoto Drilling Inc., Tuskahoma, Okla.

Hesston operates the controls of a drilling rig. “Safety is always our number one priority.”

Andrea Bond, community relations manager, Southwestern Energy, Conway, Ark.

Andrea served a tour in Iraq as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. She was part of the nation’s first all-female helicopter crew. “I came from 17 years’ military experience….I got connected to Southwestern Energy through a project called, ‘America Wants You.’ Actually, the job found me. I did not find the job. I might be a little biased, but I do believe that veterans are [an] untapped resource. I think that Southwestern Energy has done a fantastic job in taking what I spoke about in my skills or experience and translated them into something that would [be a] fit for them.”

The back of a Southwestern Energy truck sports a “Powered by the Fayetteville Shale” decal. While the truck, a new compressed natural gas vehicle, is literally powered by natural gas from local gas production, the truck could figuratively represent much more. Energy development in the Fayetteville Shale has powered the regional economy and stands to be an economic engine for decades to come. 

Across America, people are joining together in places like Searcy, Arkansas, to make their towns prosper. The oil and natural gas industry is part of these communities. For more than 60 years, hydraulic fracturing technology has been successful used in more than one million wells throughout the country. Now, coupled with horizontal drilling, we continue to safely and responsibly develop energy from shale.