The oil and gas industry has seen incredible growth and changes over the past 100 years. In 1923, on May 28 (a century ago almost to the day), oil was discovered in the Permian Basin at a well known as the Santa Rita No. 1. This discovery initiated a new era of industry and wealth for Texas, which transformed the state into an energy leader in the United States and beyond. Today, the Permian is pumping out record volumes of oil and gas, a development that has solidified West Texas and Southeast New Mexico as one of the most important oil producing regions in the world.
Just think for a moment about how far we have progressed as an industry from the beginnings when inventive ingenuity, grueling work conditions, and an unquenchable appetite for risk taking was required. The technology and methods used to discover and produce a well like the Santa Rita No. 1 has changed significantly in the last century. The cable tool drilling era gave way to the modern rotary drilling systems, and we have advanced from pounding a hole in the earth to drilling with man-made diamond cutters (PDC bits) that bore 3-dimensional trajectories through the strata using downhole tools that guide its path with precision. The risk profile has also changed from an all-or-nothing proposition of the wildcatter’s exploration methods to more of a manufacturing-based process of the current unconventional resources play where a dry hole is a rare ending.
Looking forward to the next 100 years of development in the Permian Basin, we can expect further advances in technology to make producing oil and gas even more efficient. It’s difficult to say what other tools and techniques will be developed to extract even more hydrocarbons, but I am confident they will continue to evolve. Improvements will also occur in produced water recycling and reuse, fugitive methane emission reduction and elimination, carbon dioxide sequestration, and unprecedented data collection and computing analysis. Further, artificial Intelligence (AI) will certainly drive those changes at an ever-increasing speed.
It’s fitting to remember that one of the first wells in the Permian Basin was named after the Patron Saint of the Impossible. Just try telling someone in this industry that something cannot be done or is impossible and see what happens. The innovation and drive of this industry is just as alive today as it was 100 years ago, and we are going to continue to be a vital part of the energy supply for the world for the next 100 years.
While PBPA doesn’t quite go back a century, since its beginning in the 1960s, our association has also evolved and grown in the last 60 years. We are one of the preeminent oil and gas trade associations with meaningful impact in Austin, Santa Fe, and Washington, D.C. I would argue that the advocacy and education we provide for our members is second to none. And while the future for the PBPA, much like the future for oil and gas in the Permian Basin, is bright, what advancements we’ll see in the future will be dictated by the engagement and support of our members. The advocacy PBPA delivers is just as vital today as it ever has been, but we are only as strong as our membership.
The Permian Basin is no longer our grandfathers’ oil field, and neither is the PBPA.
Please be on the lookout for the PBPA’s next event, the Sporting Clay Shoot and Oil Patch Pit King Challenge at Jake’s Clay. It is shaping up to be a great outing and we are looking forward to seeing you there!