Leslie Turk

The NYT discovers Haynesville Shale

by Leslie Turk

Northwest Louisiana's Haynesville Shale — what many believe holds the largest deposit of natural gas ever found in the country — is making headlines in the national media, including today's New York Times. For the past two years, companies have been quietly leasing acreage in the multi-parish region, but word of the activity didn't hit till mid-March during conference calls by small Houston-based operators Goodrich Petroleum and Petrohawk Energy — news that outed shale home-run hitter Chesapeake Energy, which had hoped to keep the find under wraps for a few more months while it continued leasing acreage in the area.

Today's NYT reports on how the play is inflating government coffers, particularly that of the De Soto Parish Policy Jury, and making millionaires of once financially strapped landowners:

"Already, several dozen people who own parcels of land over the field are becoming instant millionaires as energy companies pay big money for the mineral rights to the gas, which like other energy sources is worth far more than it was last year. Jalopies are being traded in for Cadillacs, plans for swimming pools are being hatched in rusty trailers, and the old courthouse here is packed to the rafters day after day with oil company 'landmen' (and women), whose job it is to frantically search the record books for the owners of the mineral rights to land that has become like gold.

"In the space of months, the price of such rights on an acre has shot up to $30,000 from a few hundred dollars and is still climbing. Some very modest people, in a place where the Tough Steak Meat Market sits near the Triple J Motors car lot and the courthouse square is half boarded up, are becoming very wealthy, very quickly."