Eagle Ford Shale Job Pros and Cons

Eagle Ford Shale Job Pros and Cons
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oil pumpjack in eagle ford shale

Above, a new pumpjack in the Eagle Ford shale near Karnes City.

One sector of the American economy that is still growing jobs is the oil and gas drilling industry. There are jobs in the Eagle Ford shale discovery in Texas for those with industrial, technical, truck driving, welding and other backgrounds.  What is the Eagle Ford shale? It has been called by some energy industry analysts the “largest domestic discovery of oil found in the last 50 years”. While other exciting new oil discoveries have also been made in similar shale rock formations around the United States, (such as the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and the new Utica shale discovery in Ohio), the Eagle Ford is new enough  that hundreds, if not thousands of skilled workers are still needed. Since the word is finally getting out across the United States about the number of oilfield jobs in South Texas, many people are either considering moving to the Eagle Ford shale region, or are already on their way. An estimated 500 new workers are moving each month to the 400 mile long area of South Texas  known in the industry as the “Eagle Ford shale play”. This article will describe some of the jobs that are available, as well as the challenges of living and working in the Eagle Ford shale area.

Truck Driver Jobs

One of the hottest job sectors in the Eagle Ford shale is the trucking industry. Eagle Ford shale truck driving jobs that may be available  includes frac sand hauler, gravel hauler, oil truck driver, vacuum truck driver, hot oil truck driver, pipe hauler, and wide load haulers among others. Since the Eagle Ford shale holds billions of barrels of oil, and things such as pipe and tanks must be brought in from elsewhere, you may find yourself doing either long hauls, or point to point shorter ones hauling things such as frac sand. Frac sand is used in great quantities in Eagle Ford shale wells as part of the final completion process. To search for these jobs, look in the online classified section in cities such as San Antonio and use the terms “eagle ford”, “frac”, “oilfield”, “oil”, “drilling”, etc.

Welding Jobs In The Eagle Ford Shale

Since the number of pipelines existing in South Texas is woefully inadequate to carry all of the new oil coming from newly drilled wells, hundreds of miles of new lines are being constructed. From smaller 6″ gathering lines all the way up to 30″ main oil and gas lines, there are scores of projects in progress. Texas is a “right to work” state, meaning that for most pipeline contractors you don’t need a union card, just proof you are a certified welder, or qualified welder’s helper.  Again, look in local online classified ads, Craigslist and Monster.com using the search terms “eagle ford”, “south texas pipeline”, “pipeline”, “welder”, “welder’s helper”, etc.

Service Company And Hotshot Driver Jobs In The Eagle Ford Shale

Service companies are outside contractors who provide many of the essential services required when drilling an oil well, such as drilling fluids, mobile homes for workers to live in and even highly specialized services such as well logging and directional drilling. Many of these jobs pay quite well, but most require some degree of oilfield knowledge. It is possible to find an entry level job, such as working for one of the directional drilling companies (Schlumberger, Weatherford, Baker Hughes, Sperry Sun, etc), as a shop hand, while studying the necessary subjects part time to work as a field hand.  Field hands generally earn higher pay than shop hands, though there are exceptions to this rule, such as supervisory or specialty positions.  Oilfield service companies will often hire trainees who have experience as mechanics, electronic technicians, computer techs, equipment operators and other skilled blue collar jobs.  Office jobs in the Eagle Ford shale include those for executive assistants, dispatchers, book keepers and managers and more.  Hot shot drivers perform the important service of delivering things such as small equipment, drill pipe, drill line, etc., to rig locations. They usually drive one-ton diesel, dually pickups, pulling a flatbed gooseneck trailer. Most of the jobs with the main Eagle Ford shale hotshot companies require you to have a commercial driver’s license, since having one allows you to pull heavier trailers.  Generally oilfield  hotshot driver jobs in the Eagle Ford shale will require you to live in or near on of the larger, established oilfield “hubs” such as Corpus Christi, Victoria, Freer, Alice, or one of the newly forming oilfield hub cities such as Carrizo Springs, Karnes City, Beeville, etc.  San Antonio is rapidly evolving into an oilfield hub city, with new offices being built by Baker Hughes, Weatherford, Schlumberger and other major service companies.

Oil Rig Jobs In The Eagle Ford Shale

Those who are in excellent physical condition and up to working in a challenging and demanding environment, may want to consider becoming an oil rig roughneck. Most companies hire new workers first as “roustabouts”, and if they “have what it takes”, will allow them to move up the ladder to “worm” or roughneck trainee. It is not a job for the weak of spirit or the lazy. Consider looking on sites such as TexasOilfieldJob.com for information on what drilling companies may be hiring.

Now For The Downside Of Working In The Eagle Ford Shale

Yes there are lots of new job openings in South Texas related to Eagle Ford shale oil drilling. One problem is that there is now heavier competition for these jobs, and companies prefer to hire employes with oilfield experience. Another problem is that many of these jobs  are located in small to medium sized communities such as Jourdanton, Yorktown, Pleasanton, Charlotte, TX, Big Wells, Cotulla, Karnes City, Carrizo Springs, etc. Finding housing in some of these small South Texas communities can be difficult, since so many new workers are moving there. RV parks are springing up in many of these towns, but there are still not nearly enough RV spaces available in most parks. There are a few new hotels being built,  but often a single service company, such as Halliburton, will come and lease up every available room for months, even before the motel is completed.  Before accepting any job position in the Eagle Ford shale, make sure that you can find suitable housing for you and your family. Another downside of moving to the Eagle Ford shale area is that grocery prices are on the rise, and often there is only once choice of grocery store  in the smaller communities.

For truck drivers and commuters, roads are often rough and crowded with oilfield trucks and equipment. Truck drivers may spend a long time being loaded or waiting to unload, which may cut down on their income, especially if they are paid by the mile. State troopers are starting to crack down on speeding and  overloaded trucks, as well as on out of state trucks who have not changed their tags yet, so beware of this.  For families with children, schools in new oilfield towns such as Three Rivers may be crowded. “Fitting in” as a newcomer can sometimes be a challenge in small towns that have not seen any major changes in decades. The Eagle Ford shale oil boom is literally turning this part of the country upside down overnight, and not all residents are happy about the influx of new workers. Another thing to consider is that although this is a major, proven oil discovery that will ultimately require the drilling of thousands of wells, the oil and gas industry is cyclical.  This is an industry that swings from boom to bust every decade or so. If the price of crude oil  holds up, then the drilling boom in the Eagle Ford shale will continue. If it does not, there could be layoffs.  All indications are that drilling in the Eagle Ford shale will continue full steam ahead, as long as the price of oil remains above $50 a barrel.

The website Eagle Ford Shale Blog is a good source of news and information about new developments in the area.

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