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Inside Natural Gas

AMARILLO -- One in every four jobs in the top 26 counties of the state of Texas, depends on oil production.
AMARILLO --  One in every four jobs in the top 26 counties of the state of Texas, depends on oil production.
    But there's a reason it's not just the "oil industry" it's oil, and natural gas.
Wayne Hughes, President of the Panhandle Producers and Royalty Owners Association tells us, "Every crude oil operation produces natural gas; they're one in the same, but not every natural gas operation produces oil."
    The selling price for natural gas is down from nearly $4.50 per British Thermal Unit last January almost a full dollar, to around $3.60, now.
    Because of that drop, commodity experts say the price doesn't make up for the cost of getting it out of the ground, and filtering it until it's a usable resource.
    Jason Herrick with Pantera Energy Company it's difficult to make natural gas project work the price point may continue to drop. 
    Along with the drop in price, the amount of rigs that operate here on the high plains has also declined, but Hughes says the industry has ups and downs.
    "About 104 rigs in January and 72 in September so it's really a pause more than a drop off," Hughes said.
    There are signs that there could be an upswing in demand.
"New technology surrounding horizontal drilling has changed the game for producers," Herrick said.
    A re-emerging technology makes well which producers thought were dry, viable once again. Horizontal drilling technology is another way of getting to a natural gas reservoir, that producers hadn't been able to get to before.
    Because of that, it adds jobs where they had once disappeared.
    But Herrick says, the process is expensive and Hughes agrees. It costs about $4 mil. to drill a horizontal well, where a regular pump costs only $2 mil.
    It's a commodity that will continue to be important for our area for many years to come.
    "As long as we continue to follow what our scientists tell us," Hughes says, "It'll be a reliable source of income for another generation."
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