West Texas oilfields are the driving force behind the U.S. oil and gas industry. And with so much invested in our vast, sometimes volatile local reserves, it’s easy to miss some crucial details about life on the Permian Basin.More about Life on the Basin
The Permian Basin is a unique stretch of the American landscape with stunning views of the earth “touching” the sky in the distance. Its beauty aside, geologically, a “basin” is a depression in the earth’s surface—usually caused by erosion and long-ago earthquakes.
As one of the largest basins in North America, the Permian Basin is actually three smaller basins, covering most West Texas and southeastern New Mexico – about 86,000 miles in all.
Most notably, the region is one of the most productive oil and gas basins in the United States, accounting for almost half of U.S. Output from the Permian, which stretches across Texas and New Mexico, hit 5.14 million barrels a day in 2022, and is expected to reach 5.316 million. And while output fell due to COVID and current inflation worries may dampen refinement capacity, the pumpjacks and derricks at Delaware, Midland, and Central Basin Platforms are up and running.
In fact, the U.S. ban on Russian oil in response to the Ukrainian conflict was largely possible due to increased oil production throughout the Permian Basin. This boost in production fosters growth in the Midland-Odessa region, but there is a cost.
Stretching from Eddy and Lea County, NM to Pecos County, TX, Delaware is the deepest of the Permian sub-basins. Historically, oil production here focused on vertical drilling. Recent horizontal extraction and fracking technology have created new interest in older areas and identified new opportunities in places like Bone Springs.
Oilfield workers in the Delaware basin usually live a pretty nomadic rockhound existence since the area is so sparsely populated. But the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and Carlsbad, NM, are among some points of interest.
As the most populous of the Permian Basin region, the Midland Basin is home to approximately 340,000 people. The basin is much shallower compared to Delaware, allowing for more effective fracking and horizontal drilling.
Midland-Odessa sits just minutes down 1-20 and has long been the epicenter of the West Texas oil industry. The sudden rise in the cost of living has affected the housing market, created staffing shortages in virtually any industry outside the oilfields, and stretched local resources razor thin.
The discrepancies are visible everywhere, from schools to hospitals. But perhaps nowhere is the potential for harm more evident than on local two-lane highways, where commuters compete with massive tankers and equipment haulers on dusty roads where such volume becomes a liability.
As its name suggests, the Central Basin Platform rests in the middle of the Midland and Delaware basins. Famous for its low costs and consistent returns, the Central Basin has become the low-risk, high-reward place to drill. The Platform has yielded over 90% of the oil recovered from the Permian Basin to date.
With the area covering much of Andrews, Ector, Winkler, Ward, and Crane County, the Central Planform sees a lot of roughneck newcomers to work on rigs and build infrastructure. In cities like Kermit, companies have had to scramble to accommodate them. Referred to as “man camps,” hundreds of men bunk together, and almost every vacant lot has been turned into an RV encampment. While this labor infusion is good for some, it is a strain, and the local communities are slow to catch up.
Working in the oil fields ca be rewarding. But it comes with risks. The Center for Public Integrity reported 1,566 U.S. oil industry deaths between 2008 and 2017.
This fatal trend has continued. Between 2018 and 2020 the Bureau of Labor Statistics attributed another 335 worker fatalities to oil and gas extraction.
The CDC also estimates that the fatality rate for oil and gas workers is seven times higher than other industries. After all, workers are subjected to mental fatigue, a poor diet, cramped, often dismal living conditions, unclean air, and grueling working conditions, any of of which can lead to serious injuries.
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Aside from the usual hazards in the oilfields, workers are left to deal with isolation being so far from home, limited health care options in the middle of nowhere, a severe lack of entertainment, and rapid infrastructure expansion that borders on recklessness.
The Permian Basin region is a big place. Aside from work, it can be a lonely place with limited options. Here are a few things you may enjoy:
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When you work with us at Kemmy Law Firm, you are working with a family run firm with more than 50 years of combined experience. We are dedicated and successful trial attorneys practicing in West TX, Hobbs, NM, Midland-Odessa, and across the Permian Basin. Our team handles everything from catastrophic injury claims to complex business matters. We are here to fight for you. We dedicate our time and attention to your case and use every resource available to maximize your claim and obtain the best possible outcome.